God damn I love shoes. I am that cliche.
I have never not loved shoes. At the suspiciously young age of 9 I wrote a manifesto called “Equal Rights For Shoes.” My love is capacious but not indiscriminate. I prefer a wedge heel. I like a soft footbed. Cork, leather, suede, flowers, sequins — bring it. My favorite photograph from my wedding is me and my lovely bridesmaids lifting our skirts (or tuxedo pant legs) to reveal our shoes, because, let’s face it, shoes make the person.
Today, while I was wearing my Reebok Z-techs and huffing toward mile 5 on the elliptical machine, my phone rang. It was the dreaded area code. The area code where Milo is trekking with llamas and other confused kids.
And I was going with the theory that no news is good news.
“Hello, is this Susan?”
“Oh no, what’s wrong?”
Chuckle. “No, no, nothing too serious. Milo’s doing great actually. Since he realized he was here and he should make the best of it he’s been quite charming. He’s fitting in and helping out.”
“Oh.” Sigh. “So. . .”
“There is the small matter of. . .”
“Let me guess, shoes?”
“Yes, he insists his hiking shoes are too small.”
“Ugh. They’re only a few weeks old, they were fitted by a specialist and I got him those seamless socks made by the sensory integration fairies that cost a zillion dollars a pair. Those shoes aren’t too small.”
Chuckle. “The thing is, since we work with the National Park service on these back country treks, he really needs to be wearing appropriate footwear. But he says he has hiked many miles in his crocs.”
“Well, that’s true, he has hiked many miles in his crocs. When is the trek supposed to start?”
“You know. .. now.”
“Damn. How far are you going today?
“Not far, just 2 miles.”
“Have you tried telling him that he only has to wear the hiking shoes for those 2 miles?”
“Have you given him a Klonopin?”
“Not this afternoon.”
“Give him a Klonopin and try again. Try negotiating for 10 minutes. He’ll forget the deal once he’s happily leading his llama down the trail.”
“Okay, but they need to get going soon. If I can’t get him into the hiking shoes, do I have your permission to let him hike in crocs?”
“If I don’t give permission and he won’t wear the right shoes does he not get to go on the trek?”
“You have my permission.”
“He could twist an ankle.”
“That’s fine with me.”
A few years ago Milo was running fast downhill in a pair of crocs and took a huge tumble. He scraped up his face, arm and leg. He was bloody and quite upset. But it took more than a week of irritability and little sleep before I noticed that his arm had bowed. The pediatrician sent us for an x-ray which revealed a fracture. He came home in a cast. God damn he hated that cast. He was so incredibly uncomfortable, his whole body contorted with the agony of that cast. He protested to the point of exhaustion. He fell asleep in a heap of defeat. The next morning he woke me at 5 am mad as hell about his cast. I told him there was nothing I could do. He left the room only to return 45 minutes later holding the cast in his other hand. He had worked the damn thing off through force of will and fury. We took him back and got a special cast for special kids. The cast business is remarkable isn’t it? Milo simply won’t stand for discomfort. But what’s more remarkable is that he had a broken arm for over a week and couldn’t tell. He couldn’t identify the pain enough to say, “my arm hurts.” He did everything a 7 year old boy does every day but with a broken arm. Discomfort is intolerable, but pain?
This summer, on the days that Milo and I are hanging out without specific plans I make him run around the block every so often as a screen break and for the exercise. If he does it 5 times in a day he runs a mile. Milo runs fast and he runs barefoot.
The ugly truth is this this: Milo hates shoes. He’s my son, he has my DNA, I made him, I gestated and birthed him and he hates shoes. He hates them. He wears crocs and a shirt only because he wants service.
I don’t know if Milo put his hiking shoes on today or if he wore his crocs. I don’t know if he twisted an ankle or lost several toes. I don’t know if he powered through the inappropriateness of the crocs, if he noticed that they don’t have the support he needs, or if he took the crocs off and hit the trail barefoot. I don’t care. He isn’t here with me complaining about his shoes. He is trekking. With a llama to call his own.