Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Last Pair Of Shoes

Barbara: My younger daughter has her prom next week. Today we found the perfect pair of shoes to go with the beautiful dress her sister is making her. Next fall, Michele goes away to college. And so I notice it has become a year of lasts.

I’ve been known to wax melodramatic on many a subject (don’t get me started), but it’s hard not to go there when every other exchange between my daughter and I involves, “When you’re away next year…”

I can’t help but read heartbreaking finality into every gesture, every event, every moment.

Obviously the fact that this is my last child in her last days of high school going to a last prom is indisputable. I will never again drive a child to or from school, will never wander school halls to admire a child’s work or speak to a teacher, will never again meet and host all their various friends. I knew it was coming, but then––like everything with your kids––one can never fully prepare.

So today I bought what will undoubtedly be the last pair of high heels for my daughter.
The last size 8s, in the last store we had time to check, on our last shopping spree: the exact pair she'd imagined
You can reassure me all you want and say, “Shoes make an awesome present for a young woman of limited means, of course you will keep buying them shoes.” But the truth is, as any woman will tell you, dress shoes are the chocolate truffle of women’s wear: you discover them, your breath is taken away, you try them on one delicate foot at a time, you delight in their elegant perfection, you decide you MUST have them, you buy them and watch them get packed away in their tissue-laden box, you take them home, model them, savour their loveliness. High heels are impossibly PERSONAL. They’re not practical, not comfortable, and might not be worn more than a handful of times.

With university costs and expensive equipment requirements for both girls, it’s unlikely our daughters will enjoy any more frivolous shopping sprees courtesy of their parents. No, I see more winter boots in their futures, more sensible coats, apartment accessories, food of course, camera equipment and fabric bolts, even hats and mitts and scarves and shirts, but we may in fact have just purchased the last pair of strappy heels for a female member of the household that is not me. Sigh.

(Bright side reflection: every future pair of sexy shoes we buy will be all MINE…)

Deb: Oh Barb, this was so beautiful. The idea of the last pair of shoes resonates with me. Since our boy has been in New York, some three years now, he more and more will not allow us to pay for things when he needs something. When he has to, he will cave. But usually he chooses to live independently. So I know what you are going through.

And although you will not be able to buy that pair of strappy goodness, you WILL be able to say, “Hey, since you’re in town, why don’t we go shoe shopping together?” And when you do, maybe you will treat, or maybe she will.

Or maybe neither of you will find anything worthy of your money. And you will be left with simply a glorious day together. Such is the crapshoot of adult children. 


  1. What a beautiful story . I know when I move away for college that I got told to call when I needed something and I would get it. Which is great. If u ever do. It was kind of cool when i moved away because before I did got to talk with my grandparents and I found out that the had keep my shoes from when I was in pre school. They said they keep them because I like them so much when I was younger and it was a memorie for them. It was great .

  2. Thanks, Lyndsie. I'm not overly nostalgic, but I just put out the first pair of shoes I ever bought my girls: a pair of hand-made baby moccasins from a Native woman at a craft store when I was just 3 months pregnant with my first. It went against my better judgment at the time to buy them, but I had to have them. Both girls wore them, then they became Christmas ornaments, now they decorate a small plate in my basement lobby.

  3. Having boys is so different. They don't care about clothes or shoes as much. Just a few years ago I was visiting my younger son and his family and we were going out and in he comes from work with frayed pants at the bottom. Yes, he wore them to work. He doesn't see customers everyday so he explained. I said but you see other employees. So off we went to Nordstrom's and literally about $2000 later he had a whole new wardrobe with shoes included. I couldn't help myself. So sometimes that splurge is still in us parents. He works hard supports his family and sometimes needs a personal shopper. I enjoyed it better than going to Costco to fill their pantry. Since I spent so little on them for so long on clothes (just not interested) it was nice to do it for him.
    In my case the endings never stop:)

  4. Awww!! I ache for my parents who had to send 2 daughters off at the same time. And soon, they'll be sending my sis off to England next week and me to Scotland in 2 weeks. This made me love and appreciate my parents a bit more. Thank you :]

  5. My sister and mother were in college at the same time, being bankrolled by the parental account, and simultaneously I was in college on my own dime. (Plus my brother was living at home.) Yet no matter what, whenever I saw my mother, shopping happened. Sure, it was largely for practical - needing shoes to hike around the giant research college I attended, or a Proper Winter Coat; yet, no matter what the goal of that shopping trip was, there was always some "frivolous" thing that ended up sneaking into the shopping bags. I think Mom delighted in waiting for me to see something I clearly liked but didn't "need", and then buying it when I wasn't looking. Sometimes I would discover it right away, and other times not until I was unpacking at home.

    I understand the litany of lasts (oh, it's so bad when you know death is coming), but I think in this one you're probably safe - you'll be buying those pretty shoes and tops and other bits. The difference is, at least from my perspective as the child, it goes from being a parent/child event to something you do with a beloved confidant and best friend that you never actually call best friend, because "Mom" says so much more.

    I cannot fathom the transition in your child becoming her own woman, but from the child's perspective, seeing my mother in that new light made up for all the teenage hell in the world.

  6. Madge, ha! The frayed-pants-no-idea-of-fashion of the boys' world. It must have felt great taking him on that spoiling spree!!

    Kelly 1, I never thought how much more bittersweet it must be for parents of twins! And how much quieter the home will be when both leave...

    Kelly 2 (and the rest of you), thanks for the kid's perspective. It's nice to be reminded that it's as precious a time for you as it is for us. As Deb said in her response, I'm sure we'll soon be going on shopping sprees as equals. Kelly 2, you said that so well: as "best friend that you never actually call best friend because "Mom" says so much more." sniffle, sniffle...

  7. I was so embarrassed it had to be done!!!!!!!!

  8. Heh, Barbara - I miss my Mom. I think sometimes that comes through in my writing. ;-)

  9. *sigh* Well, I guess I'm gonna have to be the one to say it.

    Barbara, likely within a decade, you'll be helping shop for pairs of strappy high heels to match 2 wedding gowns. I won't say you'll be wedding gown shopping because I'm guessing Stefanie will handle those. ;)

    Then, you'll be nicely distracted by buying toys and cute, tiny clothes as you spoil grandchild(ren)to bits. You can look forward to swapping strappy high heels for darling little booties.

  10. lol, Rigel, Michele already called me on that (the wedding shoes bit) and I responded that when I got married, as much as my parent's contributed, I still bought (and wanted to buy) my own shoes!! The point you NAIL, however, is the one about the grandkids. Oh, yes, baby booties!!!

  11. And, hopefully there'll be at least one granddaughter in the mix so you can indulge in ruffledybutt tights and little patent mary janes.

  12. Being an adult child, I understand the sentiment behind your post, Barb!
    Even though I have a decent job (which I'll training for a PROMOTION soon, yay!), I still live at home. I pay for most of my needs myself, and I give my mom money from my paycheck for utilities, cellphone, etc. I feel more like a roommate than a child these days. But, every so often, my mom will pay for me to do something, or buy something. And, even at 26, it still makes me feel pretty darned special! :)

  13. Rigel, exactly!!

    And Beth, first off, GOOD LUCK FOR YOUR PROMOTION!! And secondly, it sounds like you and your mom have found the right balance. At 26, these days, with the sheer burden of costs out there, it's no wonder the "roommate" sitch at home has become so common. I truly respect how you're handling it (and how your mom does too :) )

  14. I just love the two of you! I love how I feel Im a fly on the wall with two deeply rooted close friends sharing and exchanging thoughts..and just doing what great friends do....
    Ty for sharing..and letting us all share with you..

  15. Melody, thanks so much! What a beautiful reflection on what you read here. And I have to say, that's exactly how we feel writing our stories. Like it's an intimate communication. Sometimes Deb and I will ask, Should we share this? But we always ask it after we've written it! And we always answer, Yeah, we really need to.

  16. It can be a bit sad when your children leave home, but there are still lots of good times ahead with them, and many more memories to be made.

    I'm in about the same situation as Beth, in that I still live at home, and do whatever I can to help Mom and Dad out. If I have a bit of extra money one week, I'll take us out to eat or something of that nature, and if they have extra money they'll do the same for me. It's nice knowing there's someone in the world who'll always be looking out for me... :)

    And on a side note, I'm probably just about the only woman in the known universe who has no interest at all in shoes. Shopping? Just for shoes? No, thank you. And heels? Forget about it! I don't even own a pair of heels. And yes, I know I'm a freak, but that's just the way it is...

  17. Well, if you're a freak, April, I am, too. (OK, well, we already knew this, but anyway...) I don't own a pair of heels, either.

  18. We can be freaks together haha, I hate heels! and don't fancy shoe shopping either (mostly because I can never find shoes the right style, size, price - I hate clothes shopping for the same reason). The last time I wore heels was at a friend's wedding and I kicked them off as soon as I was sitting down at the reception! Bought a pair of dressy ballet flats for the next wedding I went to haha

    Barbara, I can understand the bittersweetness of seeing your daughter off :( At least there's bound to be more fun and laughter ahead as the ladies above me have said, even though it's at a different level :)

    All the best to Michele! :)

  19. To be honest, girls, one of the reasons that I thought this would be the last pair of heels that I bought was 1) older daughter is so fashion oriented, she would always buy her shoes before I could even get close to the store. And 2) Michele is not very heel-loving either. Figured this pair may even be one of the last pairs for her ever ;)


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