The Vacation Shoes

For a variety of reasons, I took a break from blogging a couple of months ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to post about our lives. It was just that I felt like a blank chalkboard at the end of the school day — wiped clean. Evidence of the day’s lessons, anecdotes, and happy moments obliterated.

The weeks passed one after the other, with very little popping into my brain that I was motivated to record at the end of the day, let alone share with others. Homeschool had us all busy. CFS and fibro left me dog tired. Still do. And the train wreck that social media became during the Presidential election season led me to take a few steps back.

Amid all that, life went on. We elected a President. Our little guinea pig Blondie died. My daughter got a part in a Christmas play at a nearby community theater shortly before she turned 17. Thanksgiving came and went, ushering in the Christmas season. A white pig paid us a visit. The cats and dog were their usual goofy selves. Mike’s work schedule bounced back and forth from night shift to day shift and everything between as the grocery store where he works struggled to decide when exactly was the best time to schedule their stock crew.

And finally… Christmas. Tonight we shared a wonderful dinner with my mother and a friend she met at the local veterans’ home. Somehow the subject of my mother’s love for shoes came up. Jimmy had never heard the story of the vacation shoes. Mom claimed not to have remembered all of it herself, though she was the star of the show. It was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday; and, I was only too happy to share it with everyone around the table at dessert. Though not a Christmas story in and of itself, it is one of those little tales that brings people together.


The Vacation Shoes

In the mid-1980’s, when I was about 14 years old, my parents decided we shoes-1033637_1920would take a trip to the Smoky Mountains. Before the day of departure, Mom began to pack.

A little background on my mother is necessary to get the full appreciation of this story. To put it bluntly, Mother loves shoes… a lot! She loves shoes almost as much as she loves fancy dishes. But that’s a tale for another day.

From the time I was a teenager, I can remember my mother owning only one pair of tennis shoes. Those were a necessary evil for the gym classes she was required to take in college. Under no circumstances could mother be persuaded to wear those tennis shoes in public, or even around the house, for that matter. I believe they were donated to the nearest Goodwill Store as soon as mother’s Physical Education credits were completed.

Mother preferred more elegant shoes that flattered her feet. She owned high heels, low heels, flats, sandals, floppy shoes, slippers, and plenty of them… but not tennis shoes, brogans, or anything that swallowed one’s foot whole. She did yard work, gardening, and housework in thong shoes or slip-on’s. I honestly can’t even remember her owning a pair of boots until I was almost grown.

As mom chose her outfits for this vacation of ours, she did what every connoisseur of fine footwear would do. She planned on a separate pair of shoes for each outfit. It became apparent to mother that an additional suitcase would be necessary just to hold her shoes. Not to be deterred, and seeing nothing out of the ordinary with this plan of action, mother grabbed another suitcase from the back of the closet and started stuffing it full of shoes. About this time, my dad decided to check on everyone’s progress.

A little background on my father this time around. Daddy was a control freak. If there was a task to be done, such as family packing for a vacation, he would have formed a plan in his head about how all this should go long before the first sock or pair of undies was tossed into anybody’s bag. And Daddy’s plan did NOT include a separate container for all of mother’s shoes. He would not have accounted for said container in his Smoky Mountain packing manual, nor would he have even attempted to understand why a woman would want, let alone need, a separate pair of shoes for every single outfit in her wardrobe. So… No… Under no circumstances whatsoever would mother be taking that many shoes. One pair was good enough for Daddy, so that should suffice for everyone else as well.

Looking back, I should have known something was up because Mother did not stand her ground. That suitcase went quietly back into her bedroom closet, and she continued gathering her clothes, makeup, jewelry, etc., without so much as a fuss. Because Mother had a plan.

Daddy had already begun to load the trunk of the Monte Carlo with the items we would not need until we reached Gatlinburg. He was finished packing before the rest of us (of course… with his one pair of shoes). The trunk of the car contained several large suitcases, bags, boxes, etc., all neatly stowed away. All that was left were the toiletries we’d be using in the morning before we departed: deodorant, toothbrushes, hairspray, and the like. Those could be tossed in the car before we pulled out.

But there was a flaw in Daddy’s plan. He left the house. And he wasn’t driving the Monte Carlo. Probably taking a key to my grandmother so she could feed the dog while we were gone. Mother saw her opportunity. She quickly finished packing her suitcase of shoes, being sure to add as many cute little pairs as she thought she might possibly need. She walked out to the car with her contraband in tow, unloaded one side of the trunk, pushed that case of smuggled shoes all the way to the back, reloaded the trunk so that you could not tell there was anything under all the other stuff, and shut that lid. Oh, yes, she did.

Me? I wasn’t about to say a W-O-R-D. Conventional wisdom tells parents to pick their battles with their kids. Let me assure you that this works both ways. No way was I ratting Mom out and starting WWIII in our driveway. Nope! Ignorance was the path I was taking. Plausible deniability.

The following evening we made it to Gatlinburg. Daddy began to unpack the trunk. As “Control Freak in Residence,” it was his job to know exactly how many parts, parcels, bags, and bodies were in that vehicle at all times. What is this strange case at the bottom of the pile on the left hand side of the trunk?! Of course, Daddy didn’t put it in quite such delicate terms. I believe he knew what the contents would be as soon as he laid eyes on that suitcase shoved far back into the corner. He definitely wasn’t mincing words after he opened it. And pulled out pair after pair after pair of shoes. Cute little floppy shoes. Red shoes, black shoes, blue shoes, green shoes. Shoes in case it rained. Shoes in case it didn’t. Shoes in case it got cold. Shoes in case it got hot. Mother had a pair and a color for all outfits and all occasions.

Daddy was not amused. In general, Daddy did not accept defeat well at all, did not go quietly into the night. He confronted Mother about the shoes in the parking lot, refusing to bring them into the hotel room. If Mother wanted to change her shoes every few hours, she’d have to fetch them herself. Mother was very calm about the whole thing. After all, she’d won that battle before we even pulled out of Mobile.

One other thing about Daddy is that he loved to get the last word in. He may have lost the shoe showdown, but he did come up with a nickname that has stuck with my mother all these years.

The Philippines experienced political unrest in the mid-80’s which resulted in the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda. The Marcos’ fled their palace, leaving many of their possessions behind. Among them were well over 1,200 pairs of shoes owned by Mrs. Marcos. These shoes became a symbol of the Marcos’ decadent lifestyle. Since Daddy thought it was a bit pretentious to take a whole suitcase full of shoes on vacation, not to mention completely impractical, mother was dubbed “Imelda” right then and there in a hotel parking lot in the Smoky Mountains.

I wish I could say that mother saw the light that day and learned the error of her ways. Alas, it was not to be. Mother’s shoe collection grew over the years, reaching several hundred pairs before she decided to pare it down, pardon the play on words. Daddy was quite proud of her for that difficult accomplishment. Now about all those dishes, I can only imagine what he would think… We may have to find a 12-step program!


Merry Christmas, everyone!

© 2015-2016 Our Lives In Stories

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