Photo: The boys love lights in their shoes, so we head straight to the Sketchers aisle during back-to-school time. They love them and I always feel a little jealous (why can’t I get lights in my shoes). But this isn’t a post about my jealousy. This is a post about Major’s shoe choice.
A late-August Afternoon. Maryland. Off-Broadway Shoes, which is (always) having a BOGO event. Enter: Tired mom. Two excited boys.
The store was fairly empty, thanks be to God. Save for another family with a kid who looked about to go to preschool. I say this because the boys stepped into the store, were greeted by the clerk, politely greeted her back, and then went running through the aisles to find their shoes. I looked to the woman with an apologetic look and then asked where the kid shoes are.
“Follow your boys! They’re heading in the right direction!”
It took a minute to get oriented. Mostly because Minor decided he really, really liked a pair of $200 sneakers that were sized for men. It took 10 minutes to redirect him. But then Major gave off a squeal of delight from one of the stacks in the back and Minor went running to see what he’d found.
He’d found these:
Dark-purple, sparkling, control-how-they-light-up, USB-cord-included, rock star shoes. If Prince could be embodied in a Sketcher shoe, this would be the shoe.
“I gotta have these shoes.”
“Yeah, you gotta have these shoes,” I said. It wasn’t even a question. Ursa Major is my fashionista and he has a thing for shoes. Shoes and jackets. He hasn’t met a shoe or a jacket he didn’t love.
“I want those shoes, too!” Minor declared.
I go looking through the stack of boxes to find the right sizes. I found Major’s first. I set it on the floor, go about getting the second box. Then Minor, my child who is constantly reading everything, says:
“The box says girls. Those are girl shoes.”
Well I’ll be damned.
Both boys froze. Then Major shrugged. “I don’t care. I like these shoes.”
“But they are girl shoes for girls. You can’t get those shoes!” Minor insisted.
Major shrugged again.
Being a modern mom is hard. It’s hard for stupid little things like this. Now I gotta think about all the things: my child trying to express himself, the jerk kids at school who are probably going to say something, the asshole adults who might say something, even certain members of the family who might decide to state their disapproval. Frankly, I wondered about what my husband would say. Was he going to give me grief about these shoes? And when he does, what am I going to say? Am I ready to fight the fights, say the words?
“Baby, if these are the shoes you want, you can have them. But I will warn you: not everyone knows you like we know you or love you like we love you. They might say mean things because they don’t understand. These are your school shoes and I’m not getting you new ones just because of the kids at school.”
Major, my thinker, my ponderer… he took the minute. Then he shrugged. “I don’t care what they think. I love these shoes. You can’t even tell. You can’t tell they’re girl shoes.”
“Are you sure? You’re really sure? Because if they do, I want you to remember this moment right now, when you saw these shoes and loved them. Because this is what matters: how you feel about your shoes.”
Major nodded. “Yup. I’m sure. I love these shoes.”
I turned to Minor. “So what about you. Do you still want these shoes?”
He didn’t. He went with another light up pair. One that said “boys” on the box. Blue and green and fine for him.
We got the shoes. They chose two new pairs of shoes for me. We walked out together with shoes we wanted. I felt the weight of the purchase when I left the store. I showed the pair to my sister, my parents. They all said the same thing: “They are fabulous! And they are so [Major]!”
They are fabulous. They are so Major.
The Husband was fine. (Thanks be to God.)
The first day of school, Major came back and said, “I got a lot of compliments! Everyone wanted to know where I got them! I’m so proud of my choice!”
I’m so proud of my choice. Fuck yeah.
My Quiet Thoughts are on the small lessons that happen, one at a time, moment after moment, that teach us how to be ourselves and how to be brave in the world. Bravery is less about the grand cinematic confrontation and more about the intimate moments of simply choosing what you want or who you want or how you want something, understanding that the consequences may suck, and choosing it anyway. These shoes are small stakes in the long run of my son’s life. They will fade from memory, replaced with the next cool new opportunity for self expression. But what I pray will happen is this lesson will echo later in time: “I loved a thing, it was a little different, but I loved it anyway and chose it, and the world kept spinning. What I loved didn’t break the world. What I loved made my world a little better.” Hopefully that will give him permission to continue to choose to love a thing, even if it’s a little different, and find joy in that thing.
And what he didn’t need to know is that I was ready to do a bunch of work to make sure the world didn’t break. I take this part of the motherhood job very seriously: holding back the world to give the boys room to be who they need to become. The ferocity of that defense would have been one for the ages. I’m so glad I didn’t have to use it.
I hope you are still brave enough to choose a thing you love, even if it’s a little different. Chances are you will not break the world. Chances are you’ll find a little joy. I hope there is someone still out there holding back the world for you. Someone who would defend you against it with legendary ferocity. And I hope you hold back the world for someone else, too. What a great and powerful duty it is. How exhausting and exhilarating.
It was 50 degrees here in Massachusetts this morning. It’s cloudy with an increasing breeze. Dorian is only going to bring a little wind and rain. Nothing like what has been seen in beloved places. Please consider giving to a relief organization this weekend. Pray for the people who are suffering. Pray for the people who are doing the hard work of bringing them relief.
Fridays are for wishes and it has been a long while since I’ve written some. I wish you the joy of a new beginning. Start something new this month. Have a back-to-school moment in your life and really enjoy that brilliant moment of unknown and anticipation. I wish you the bravery needed to choose a new thing to love and to love it no matter what the world says. Choose to make your world better by loving a thing anyway, Dear Reader. I wish you yummy tomatoes and spicy, spicy peppers and other late-harvest treats from the gardens. I wish you a good beer (thanks be to God the Fall beers are in!!) and some slow-cooked meat. Smoked turkey, perhaps? One of those big legs from the Renaissance Faire? Those things are delicious. I wish you a cozy read for the changing season. I’m reading The Overstory by Richard Powers right now and it’s excellent. Or, if you want to get ready for the HBO series, I highly recommend the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. One of my favorite series of all time. I wish you a kiss on the cheek, a squeeze of a hand, and someone telling you it’s good to see you. It is good to see you, Dear Reader. I’m so glad you’re back. Thanks for reading.
This world spins because good people get up every day and do the things that must be done. You got up this morning and you gave a bit of yourself to someone else. You got up this morning and you set the example for others to follow. You walked into a room and it made all the difference in someone’s day. These are only some of the reasons why you are loved, Dear Reader. You are loved. What you do in this world matters. You are loved by people who tell you often. You are loved by people who will never tell you directly. There is someone thinking about you right now and feels better about the world simply because you are in it. So shine brightly against the darkness that’s closing in. We’ll shine along beside you. We’ll hold back the world together. Until there is room for all of us.
Until Monday, my Dear Reader. Shine on and take care.