My mother, God rest her soul, always had a closet full of shoes. From early childhood this was a source of fascination to me. There was every kind of shoe one can imagine: athletic shoes including walking shoes, running shoes, tennis shoes; sandals of all shapes and descriptions including multiple pairs of flip-flops; casual shoes to wear around the house and dress shoes with low heels and high heels; and various pairs of bedroom shoes in a variety of conditions from well-worn (in fact barely recognizable as shoes) to pristine princess slippers.  The variety in colors was amazing, but I will say Momma kept the styles very basic. No elaborate sequins, buckles, or glitter. She was a no-frills woman, and I’m proud to say that I have taken after her in that respect.

Some of these shoes fit the many roles that she played. She worked while raising children she was a professional legal secretary (before helping Daddy run his business); was an elected school board official (serving a chair of the board for many years); served as a surrogate mother to my friends; was actively engaged in community life; and was a writer in her spare time (she wrote local histories and self-published a book of family stories). If something needed to be done, Momma did it. That included everything from cooking, changing diapers, sewing clothes, and serving as a Cub Scout Den Mother to refinishing wood floors and laying brick around the base of the house. My mother was an incredible role model, far ahead of her time.

Momma was also a generous woman and frequently gave shoes away. She maintained her large shoe inventory by constantly buying new shoes. In fact, every time she went shopping for anything, she checked out what shoes were on sale. And as often as not, she came home with another pair of shoes. As I grew older, I assumed that my mother had a “thing” for shoes. Maybe something like a shoe obsession, but not one serious enough to require some type of diagnosis. Plus, she kept them in the closet rather than scattered about the house, which could’ve been a hazard. And because she was a bargain hunter and didn’t spend excessive amounts of money on her shoes, it seemed harmless enough and occasionally amusing.

With this voluminous number of shoes, it is no surprise that my mother rarely went barefooted. She had some type of shoe for every occasion including some occasions that had not arisen yet. Of course, it’s best to be prepared and, when it came to shoes, she was. Even though they were typically covered, I admired my mother’s feet from early childhood. I thought they were beautiful. They were both rounded and angular in odd ways that make her feet quite unique. I believed that this was something to be proud of and was surprised that she constantly had her feet covered with a pair of shoes. I was always happy to get a peek at her feet.

As I became older, I discovered that I had inherited my mother’s feet. I also found out that feet are not particularly intended to be uniquely rounded and angular in odd ways. It turns out the cause of this external beauty, as I saw it in early childhood, is severe bunions and osteoarthritis. In other words, my mother’s feet hurt. All the time. In middle age as I pondered my foot fate with inheriting my mother’s uniquely and oddly rounded and angular feet, I also began sharing some of her pain. But that’s okay, I feel like I am following in amazing footsteps. It’s a small price to pay.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had another realization about my mother’s feet and her shoes. She didn’t have a “thing” for shoes at all. She was simply searching for a comfortable pair of shoes that didn’t hurt her feet! Apparently, judging from the collection in her shoe closet, she never found them.

In recent years, I’ve taken up my mother’s quest for finding a comfortable pair of shoes. I am amassing a nice collection as I continue this ongoing search and carry forward my mother’s foot legacy. I know, though, that I will never, ever be able to “fill her shoes.” There were simply too many of them!