Grandmother’s Shoes

She had a closet full of shoes
she wouldn’t throw away,
reminders of the comfy days
when every shoe would fit.
For me, it was a treasure trove
of giant shoes for a four-year-old
to slide across the lino, Ginger
to my grandfather’s Astaire.
I was completely unaware
of the agony of her size three feet,
the bunions that distorted canvas and leather
with each step in every kind of weather.
I tap-danced past the kitchen, pointing toes,
balancing on kitten heels and stilettos,
while she spread hers firmly in sensible slippers,
slashed at the bulges with her pinking scissors.

Kim M. Russell, 2017

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This Tuesday I’m hosting dVerse Poets Pub Poetics with  a Closet Full of Shoes.  Also linked to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Tuesday Platform.

It’s the end of August and children across the British Isles will be returning to school next week, spruced up in pristine uniforms and shiny new shoes, which prompted me to search for poetry about footwear by well-known poets. I could only find a few, including: a wonderful shape poem by Shel Silverstein; one about ‘Red Slippers’ by Amy Lowell;  In ‘My Shoes’ by Charles Simic; ‘The Broken Sandal’ by Denise Levertov; and ‘New Shoes’ by Honor Moore.

We’re writing a poems, of any length or form, about footwear: stilettos, Wellington boots, hobnail boots, sandals, slippers, ballet shoes… and the first thing I thought about was my grandmother’s shoes.

 

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51 thoughts on “Grandmother’s Shoes

    1. Bunions are those huge swellings next to the big toe – hers were so big she had to cut holes not only in her slippers but also in her shoes. My mum started to get them – I don’t think I will though as I only wore their stilettos when I was a child – flats for me every time!

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  1. I love your grandmother’s shoes but oh, the pain she must have experienced at times from the things you described. And to think, women in the east used to bind their feet to be tiny lotus blossoms, breaking the bones to make them tiny – torture. That’s the first thing I thought of when reading this. I wear a size 5 shoe and they are always comfortable. My motto has been and will always be “Life’s too short to wear uncomfortable shoes”

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    1. When I was a teenager I used to walk around either in boots or barefoot – I hate shoe shopping! Saying that, I recently bought two pairs of shoes – comfortable ones!

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      1. I hate shoe shopping as well. Which is why, being a creature of habit, I order shoes online. I order specific styles and brands and order according to size. I actually dislike shopping of any kind except for books, fruits and veggies, clothes for my husband.

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  2. Women’s shoes are just generally uncomfortable. Children wear sensible shoes, then when girls hit adolescence they start to wear shoes that just are not the shape of a human foot! Your poor grandmother! I’ve never had any problem with footwear since I started buying second hand shoes. Let someone else ‘break them in’ 🙂

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    1. I hate having to part with my favourite, trusty, comfy shoes. My favourites are my Doc Martens, they are so worn-in. Summer is the worst time, when you get blisters. When I was a teenager I went mostly barefoot. 😉

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  3. Lovely remembrance–those shoes of the 30’s & 40’s & into the 50’s–all ill-fitting. With my feet issues of late, they swell all the time, so I keep size 11-13 available. I had fun with my shoe poem.

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  4. Our walk from animal to human begins, for many of us, with first pairs of shoes; our education in how to be a wakened human is intricate with shiny new shoes for the next school year. Our teachers know full well the pain and burden of trying to stay accommodated to those shoes. Well done Kim. Size three shoes and torturous bunions said a lot for the burden of time.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Brendan. Do teachers send home students who are wearing the incorrect footwear? I used to hate that when I was teaching. They expected us to check uniforms everyday and there were punishments for ties that were incorrectly knotted and the wrong colour socks, among other things. I’m not a fan of uniforms..

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  5. I like to read your poems about your grandmother. It is clear you had a special relationship, and it reminds me of my own special connection to my own grandparent. I miss her.

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  6. Poor grandmother…and what tiny feet she had, Kim. I do like shopping and my quest is always to find shoes that are attractive yet comfortable. Not always easy to do but my shoes MUST be comfortable. I too ran around barefoot a lot as a child…childhood and bare feet just go together! xo

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  7. I adore this poem, Kim.

    “For me, it was a treasure trove
    of giant shoes for a four-year-old”

    I had exactly the same experience with a sort of surrogate grandmother, whom I loved very much.

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  8. The change from the beginning to the end of the poem is striking. And, goodness gracious, the last line made me cringe and sympathy. Those bunions had to be enormous!

    Still, it has to be good to have such strong/vivid memories to recall.

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