IF THE SHOE FITS…
Faye wearing her size 10 shoes that she got married in and yes they are killing her feet.
My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction, awarded the Moonbeam Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, and awarded the 2016 Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon.
I have big feet. I came by them honestly. My father wore a size 12 and was proud of it. “I got a good foundation,” he often said. With his six feet, three inch height, they were fine. Mama, however, was a foot shorter, and her size 10 feet didn’t match quite as well. By the time I was thirteen, I was five feet, eight, and could wear my mother’s shoes. That came in handy one particularly hard time in my family when she and I together had only one pair of shoes between us. Only one at a time could leave home that winter. Any day I was in school Mama had to make trips to the outdoor toilet or to the woodpile barefooted.
Actually, my feet grew even larger than size 10, but I didn’t know it. I wasn’t aware that women’s shoes came any larger. I thought any shoe I could force my foot into was my size—and that was always a size 10. When it was shoe-buying time—and that was when the sole was actually coming off the shoe, and I was no longer able to reattach it with hand-sewing—I was accustomed to going into one of the cheaper stores in Dalton, Georgia and asking in an embarrassed near-whisper to see what everyday shoes they had in size 10. Frequently, the clerk would yell to a manager, “We got any women’s shoes in size 10?” There was never a big selection, and some of those were too tight for me to tolerate.
Whatever pair I bought had to go through a “breaking in” period. This meant hurting toes, blistered heels, and general torture until my feet stretched the leather to accommodate my feet. By the time I started to college at a school requiring uniforms, I had corns on multiple toes, callouses on heels, and probably the beginning of bunions and hammer toes. When I arrived at Berry College in 1957, it was no surprise when they fitted me in size 10 white lace-up oxfords and size 10 pumps for dress-up. The shoes were quality leather, so I limped around campus for at least a year in those shoes before “breaking them in.”
After Berry, I got rid of the uniforms, including shoes, but I replaced them with new size 10s. And this was when pointy toes and three inch heels were in style. I can hardly believe now that I managed to walk—and teach—wearing those miserable shoes. The shoes made my feet look smaller, however. On my wedding day I wore a pair of three-inch heels. Although my feet appeared daintier and my legs looked long and shapely, my toes were killing me.
Then came the time my new husband and I were getting dressed for some big occasion. He watched me force my foot into those same white shoes.
“Those shoes are too little,” he said.
Embarrassed, as always, by any attention to my big feet, I replied, “They are not. It’s the size I always wear—size 10.”
“I don’t care what size they are,” Benjamin said, “they’re not big enough. You can barely get them on. “
My face was burning by this time, and I was defensive. “Well, too bad,” I said. “Ten is the largest they make.”
“You want to put some money on that,” he asked. “I guarantee they make bigger shoes, and we’re going to find them.”
The search began. Benjamin was relentless. He took me to every shoe store in Auburn. While I cringed with humiliation, he would go marching into a store and ask them to measure my feet and bring me whatever they had. There were none. We went to Opelika. No luck there either. He had plans for combing Columbus, Georgia and maybe Atlanta, but Thanksgiving put a pause on the search while we went to Coffeeville, Alabama for the holiday. When we drove into town he spotted McNider’s Store. “Might as well see what McNider has in shoes,” he said.
To my utter amazement, McNider had several pairs in size 11! And I’m talking nice shoes, brand names! What we bought was a pair of alligator mary jane tee-strap pumps with stacked heels. They looked wonderful and my feet felt as if they had died and gone to heaven. I immediately forgave Benjamin for all the embarrassment he had put me through. I wore those shoes every day until they were worn out.
From that day forward, I have only bought shoes that fit. And now when I go into a shoe department, I simply say in a normal, unembarrassed voice, “Do you have this shoe in size 11?”
Very often, they do.
Thank you, Benjamin Gibbons, for one more way you’ve added to the great happiness of my life!
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