It was a simple gesture, really, when she offered me her toddler’s outgrown red velcro shoes.
No longer needed, no longer a part of her narrative.
But yet they carry such a story.
There I was, visiting a former client turned friend, and I mentioned with it being spring I would have to find a new pair of shoes for my Millie. And off she scurried to the back of her tidy apartment for a quick moment, before presenting me with the shoes.
Without insoles, without fuss, they had a single velcro strap across the top, a Chinese dragon on the toes- just weird enough to be exactly what I needed. And she insisted I take them home.
And when she speaks, I listen. They all do- all four girls and her husband, too. Because she keeps them going.
Slipping the shoes onto Millie’s feet they were the perfect fit, and she smiled, happy to see them find a new home. Far, far away from the place, and the former reality the shoes found themselves in.
So far from the bombs and war they fled.
At only one year old, her youngest daughter faced that reality, in those shoes. At only one year old, she lived her life in limbo, alongside her family, in a neighbouring country of the only home they had ever known.
For all their time they spent in Jordan, her daughter wore those shoes. While they were waiting, wishing, and hoping for something more.
And when the call came through of their acceptance for entry to Canada, it was in those shoes that she landed that plane, only three weeks after the initial invitation. On her mother’s left hip, her daughter greeted her new reality, dragons on her feet.
And now my daughter walks a mile in those shoes.
Which brings us to today. Here and now, where the shoes rest upon Millie’s bed, in which she insisted they become part of her bedtime routine. She finds an odd comfort in them.
The velcro is fraying and they’re one size too big, but it’s those red sneakers she opts for first. Simple. Functional. And more special than she will ever understand.
For me, they supply me with my daily dose of perspective. Because there are times I complain. Though we live a comfortable life, we don’t live in luxury. But I have the privilege to choose that- to choose to get by and be satisfied by my wealth in relationships, rather than in coin- and the shoes remind me.
There are times I wish that, like many other families do, we could take our children on their first airplane ride for a vacation. There are many times I wish I could replace some of the asks for a toy at the store with a ‘Yes’ instead of the more often than not ‘No.’
There are always so many dishes, so much sand to be cleaned out of beds, so many filthy socks and filthier butts.
But at the end of a long day I sit back and I look to those red shoes. And suddenly I can clean a toilet bowl and eat more god damn potatoes.
Because with those shoes, I remember one mother’s generosity, one child’s strength, one family’s perseverance. Daily, I remember that journey.
So though I have to reapply the velcro 40 times a day, I am happy to do it.
Those red shoes are my life’s current gift.
Though the days may be long raising these girls, and our resources slimmer at times than we may like, comfort is all about having perspective.
And so I hustle on, like every mother on this planet, despite, and in spite, of individual circumstances. Grateful to live the complicated privilege this life is, for the children who walk in velcro shoes.