Spontaneously, from the depths of her dementia, sometime in the last months of her life, my mother whispered to me with a surprisingly emotional catch in her voice, “I wish I hadn’t bought those...those thin shoes for you.” I instantly knew what she meant. She was referring to the cheap shoes that she forced me to wear in the first grade of elementary school (by providing nothing else). Those ugly, skimpy shoes had soles so thin that they wore through the very first time that I walked to school in them. She refused to replace the shoes even though the sidewalk wore through my cheap socks too. Those socks were another issue, they seemed to lack shape and slid down into my shoes, where they formed a uncomfortable lump under the arches of my feet and left my ankles embarrassingly bare. To save the socks and patch the shoes, I searched wastebaskets for pieces of paper, cardboard was better but not as easy to find, and I folded the paper into pads to fit my shoes, replacing the paper as it wore through. One pad of paper would get me to school, another pad of paper would get me home. (Where were the teachers, why did not one teacher notice and help me?)
This was close to the end of my mother’s time on earth and I appreciated her apology. I said to her, “Mother, don’t worry about it. That was a long time ago. Would you like some tea now?” I am proud of having been a good daughter. As I grew older I realized the mental handicaps of native cruelty and aloofness that my mother labored under. Still, she gave me birth and I honored her for it. I loved her. On that day of her apology, the only one I ever got, I saw her old, gray head dip just a little low in silent acknowledgement of my forgiveness.
Caption: Sole less Shoes That My Mother Made Me Wear
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018