by Joanna Atherfold-Finn
Right. That’s it. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. And you, department store lady with your nice gold badge, sturdy foot measurer and even sturdier black-cloaked bosom, you are the rightful winner. I entrust you, once more, with my children’s feet.
My momentary flirtation with the dark side happened, innocuously enough, via a back-to-school article. For years my mother had indoctrinated me about the evils of “substandard” school shoes. Apparently they would result in my kids limping like Tolkien’s Morgoth. They would develop all manner of deformities – bunions, clubfoot, Calcaneal apophysitis – the list was as endless as the painful path they’d hobble down if I shunned my pre-ordained role as a fellow shoe purist.
My own school days are a painful reminder of this. While the other girls wore Jesus sandals or T-bars, my feet were immobilised in the only shoes made for skinny feet. Each year I would gaze longingly at the alternatives, only to have my foot length (and girth) measured. Then the “slender foot” option would materialise and I’d be duly trussed before the merciless, “Walk up and down for me, dear.” Oh, the humiliation.
Today I rebelled. The aforesaid article, complete with podiatrist quotes, said that the cheaper alternatives were actually okay. The local chain-store also advertised a fitting service.
“Okay, kids,” I enthused. “Shoe-time.”
The next scene is etched in my mind, and somewhere in that image, my mother is hovering like a prophet witnessing a minion lose her way. The shoe aisle could only be described as catastrophic. It looked as though the shelf stockist had had a severe, far-reaching epileptic seizure. Perhaps it was the “fitting” lady. A few random pairs hung forlornly, fighting for space with slippers and thongs. “Hell,” my daughter said. I didn’t try to correct her.
Still, if nothing, I’m tenacious. The fitting service was actually a foot measuring diagram. My children positioned their feet and we did a rough calculation that was possibly influenced by the only size five left on the shelf.
“Okay, honey,” I enthused to my son. “Pop them on and we’ll have a little feel for length.” For some reason I had developed a slow, articulate, North Shore accent. I sounded like I’d been to the Bahamas. I sounded like I was on Prozac.
“They’re no good,” he replied. “They’re all flippy.”
“Walk up and down for me, dear,” I smiled, unperturbed. It was only as he penguin-shuffled down the aisle that I noticed the shoes were tied together with indestructible elastic. I tried to separate them with my teeth, but in the end I admitted defeat. Tomorrow, we’ll be guided by a foot professional. My children are worth it. And so is my sanity.