During a visit to Lacey, Washington when I was 12 years old, grandma Christine took me to the mall to buy me a new pair of shoes. Grandma Christine alternated between being generous and stingy with me and my brothers. We were her only grandchildren for a period of 23 years and we were a pretty sorry bunch perhaps best described as “bedraggled.” We were also sassy, self-righteous, foul-mouthed, and disheveled. I can’t quite imagine how she must have felt when she took us to church with her on Sundays. Here we are at her house one Christmas holiday. Grandma must have given Tommy and Christopher those new shirts and I can remember loving the bright red jumpsuit I received, which was similar to the kind worn by guys who worked in gas stations. You can tell by the look on my face that I was stubborn.
When we visited grandma Christine she often tried to spruce us up a bit, perhaps so we’d look better when she drug us to church. I can remember her saying “I don’t care if you’re only going to the bathroom, I want you to look nice.” Sometimes making us look nice meant tossing us in the shower, or cutting our hair, other times it meant buying us something new to wear.
I was a tall and skinny 12 year old with very long narrow feet. I remember the trip to the mall with grandma to buy a new pair of shoes because it went on and on and on. The real problem was that my long narrow feet measured a size 11 and very few stores stocked size 11 in 1977. At the end of that long day we ended up in a shop that carried shoes designed for professional people who have to be on their feet all day—nurses and other healthcare workers, for example—and found a pair of shoes that fit: tan suede lace-ups with a thick rubbery sole.
And so began my life as a person with big feet. Today women with big feet have many fine options to choose from. In the 1970s we were limited to sneakers from the men’s department or shoes designed for nurses. In the 1980s I wore men’s dress shoes—wingtips, for example—that I found in vintage shops or second hand stores.
At some point in my young adulthood regular stores began to carry women’s shoes in a size 11. Around that time I found a beautiful pair of boots in the glamorous new Joan and David store on Pike street in downtown Seattle. I fell in love with the boots and justified purchasing them—for $200!—because I thought the style was timeless and because they fit. I absolutely loved the boots and wore them often. Here I am wearing them on a trip to Bellingham when Eric and I visited Marty in his dorm room at Western Washington University, which means I didn’t reserve them to wear only on special occasions.
Nearly 30 years later, I still have those boots, but I haven’t worn them for at least 25 years. Although the boots are beautiful still, the style isn’t as “timeless” as I thought it was, and my feet, after carrying two babies, are ever-so-slightly too big to fit them.
Offering: a pair of beautifully made Joan and David boots, size 11.