I prefer these shoes, thank you.

Before I knew of a place called Australia, before I could speak English fluently and when Korean was my most used language, my parents took us on a world tour.

It must have been 1981, because we were there in London, amidst the waving crowd as the newly married Prince and Princess of Wales passed by in their carriage. We started in Singapore and went across the globe to Europe and America.

This story takes place in Rome. It’s my parents’ memory as much as mine. We walked through the city. We saw the tourist spots. I remember the Trevi Fountain and throwing a coin over my shoulder into the water.

On our wanderings our family walk into a shoe store. Their shoes for children catches mum’s eye. She says they were exquisite. Made from the finest leather and beautifully crafted.

As we walk through the store I see a pair of shoes too. My little heart skips a beat. I am in love. They are sandals. They have white wooden soles and a purple vinyl strap. They also have a little bit of a heel which makes me feel grown up. They clip and clop on the hard shop floor as I walk in them. They are perfect.

My mother is horrified. She tries to convince me to take the beautiful leather shoes instead. She tells me they’re well made. She tells me they will last. She tells me they are flat and the shoes I found can be dangerous because of the heel. I could easily twist my ankle if I fell in them.

I have a look at the shoes in her hand. They look boring. I clutch the wooden shoes to me and refuse to let them go. Just as my mother is about to lose her temper, the shopkeeper cannot stand the battle of wills any longer and speaks.

She turns to my mother and berates her. “Your daughter wants those purple shoes,” she argues. “What kind of mother are you? Why aren’t you making her happy and getting them for her?”

My beautiful vinyl shoes are cheap. The shoes my mother wants are expensive. But the shopkeeper doesn’t care. My mother is astounded. She falls silent. There is a tense stand off between three passionate females in the small shoe store.

Dad nervously steps in, says we’ll take them both, and bundles our family out of the shop before the situation gets out of hand.

We took the shoes all the way to Singapore. The place was home for us back then. While my fine leather shoes stayed in the wardrobe, I wore my purple vinyl ones with the little white heels everywhere. It went with me to swimming pools and botanic gardens. It took me to air conditioned shopping centres during the day and hawker centres in the evenings. I wore it until the wooden soles gave way and the plastic strap broke.

I adored my vinyl and wooden shoes that clip clopped as I walked. And it was all thanks to that Italian shopkeeper who loved happy children more than her profit margins.

via the Daily Prompt: Prefer

Image from Adman: Warhol Before Pop exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW. Taken on the phone and edited using Hipstamatic.

 

7 thoughts on “I prefer these shoes, thank you.

  1. Childhood objects are so often fraught with emotion and significance which even in our adulthood we vividly recall. I love how you were able to tell this story from your perspective while keeping in mind your mother’s feelings at the time.

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  2. I love this story. Apart from the fact it’s beautifully written, you have reminded me of the ghastly red shoes I had as a child. My mother (who wasn’t particularly sympathetic to children’s desires herself) was in hospital and asked a friend to take me shopping for new school footwear. This woman, probably channeling my mother’s worst instincts, insisted on buying me the ugliest pair of red T-bar shoes. It was summer and I wanted sandals like everyone else. I remember wearing the red monstrosities to the end of our drive each day, taking them off, hiding them in the hedge and going to school barefoot. Somehow my dad found them in the hedge and the whole story came out. I think he decided (like your dad) that avoiding conflict was wise and bought me some cheap sandals.
    Thank you prompting this memory 🙂

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