When it comes to footwear, I’m pretty sure I’m not in Imelda’s league. Nonetheless, there are more old pairs in my closets than I could ever possibly wear. Some of them hold sentimental value, and some potential danger, as I’ve lost the skill of walking in high heels. Others are simply an existential burden: too ugly to wear, too worn to donate. Some of those will go to Nike to and become playground surfaces, I hope, but they limit their collection to athletic shoes and I’ve never been all that athletic.
One pair that is likely to remain here is a legacy from my mother-in-law: a classic pair of “Vitality” black suede pumps with leather soles. From what I can find out, they were likely made in the 1940s, when my husband was a young child and his mother still hoped to have some nightlife. The design is elegant, but comfortable: these heels are not stilettos to wobble to work on.
But I never saw them on her feet. By the time I got to know Evelyn, she was wearing custom-molded orthotic shoes to ease the pain of her bunions and corns. “Soldatskis” was her nickname for these, possibly harking back to her Romania parents’ opinions of Russian military uniforms (they emigrated in 1901).
And to some degree, I’ve always resented the repressiveness of fashionable footwear. I can recall going barefoot for a whole summer after I graduated college, and becoming proud of my own tough soles. These days, as a self-employed writer I’m just as likely to spend the day padding around in old socks. But still, the footwear accumulates…