Cruel shoes from France

The Love of Shoes

Shoes, Vide Grenier in France
Shoes, Vide Grenier in France. Click photo to access ‘The Cruel Shoes’ by Steve Martin

Written on 14 July 2012 in preparations for a creative workshop given by Dayle Doroshow

Madame Collette Lianne hurriedly unzipped her suitcase, jamming her hands into it and trying to decide which items were essential to her should the remaining contents not arrive in Brussels when she did. What a bother to have the jet run out of room for carry-on luggage before her turn to be seated came up. After carefully culling her supplies and clothing so that it would fit into a carry-on luggage, she was going to have to check the bag after all. Oh well, she really only needed her computer and her medication. And maybe all her snacks. Okay, the rest could be moved down to the bowels of the aircraft. She tried to fit the chosen essentials into the too-small shopping bag draped over her shoulder and moved forward in line, handing her small suitcase to the young man waiting for it.

Such a shame; she could’ve brought more shoes in a larger case if she’d known she’d be checking her baggage. It was very difficult to choose only two pair to bring. She’d settled on her black hiking sandals—very comfortable and able to get wet if needed—and a new but proven-to-be-comfortable pair of dressier black sandals. Left behind were sensible closed-toe leather walking tennies, iridescent hand-painted green leather sandals and bright red and orange flat leather sandals.

Collette loved shoes, just as her Nana Charlotte had. Collette thought about the shopping trips her grandmother had taken her on as a girl. “Can Collette spend the night?” Nana would ask. Collette’s mother, overwhelmed by three bickering and imaginative daughters, inevitably let one go for the night.

Spending the night at Nana’s always included a shopping trip, either by car or bus, in downtown Oakland. And the shopping always included the purchase of a new pair of shoes for the lucky girl who was with Nana. Most often, the chosen shoes were dress shoes, with black patent leather shoes being the norm. Collette never thought about it at the time, but it was probably her Nana’s way of helping out the family. Collette just knew that trying on many shoes and bringing her favorite pair home made her very happy.

Collette smiled when she remembered the trip they’d made, returning on the bus. Nana was shocked to see her shiny blue and cream ’56 Chevy missing from the driveway. Her shock ended, replace by embarrassed relief, when she remembered they’d driven to town, parked the car in an hourly lot, forgotten about it while shopping and taken the bus home. But that didn’t stop Nana from taking regular trips to town until she could no longer walk through the department stores.

Collette always suspected that she was her Nana’s favorite granddaughter. After Nana’s death she discovered that each of her twelve grand children thought THEY were her favorite. How did she do that, Collette often wondered.

Collette’s mother and sisters once came along on the shopping trip, just before Collette’s ninth birthday. In the girl’s department was a display of beautiful blue petticoats, all sizes. They looked like magic; yard and yards of many shades of blue tulle gathered onto an elastic waistband. Just below the waist was one blue tulle rosette. Collette had to have it. She begged, she pleaded, she cried. Finally her mother pulled her to another area of the store so Nana could purchase the “surprise” birthday gift. Collette never felt as special as when she wore the petticoat under her dresses. And of course the patent leather shoes were the perfect touch.

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