Neat Feet

With the emergence of the sandal season slowly making it's appearance up in the northern hemisphere, I recently took it upon myself to pack my darling children up and head into the big city in search of some charming footwear that don't resemble mukluks or ski boots.

After silencing the chorus of whines with threats of bodily harm bribes of fast food for good behaviour, we finally got down to the business of shoe shopping. Shopping for shoes is serious business to me. My reputation as a mother is largely based on what type of foot wear my children toddle about in. (At least in my mind.) I try to hide from the world the fact we are a family of rednecks by shodding my children with good shoes.

(I no longer use animal skins and twine. It tended to be a dead giveaway, even if it was cost effective.)

Shoe shopping also has a more personal meaning to me than just buying the cutest footwear in the market.

After living through the trials my Shalebug endured, and the hell his own feet put him through, I see a shoe and appreciate how fortunate my children and myself are. We can simply try on a shoe. And walk, run, jump. Not everyone is so lucky. A shoe to me, is a reminder of health and how fragile it can be.

My son was born with stubborn bilateral club feet. My first glimpse of him after pushing him out of me with Herculean effort was his twisted purple feet. I knew immediately upon seeing them that my life would never be the same. I hadn't yet seen him, but the silence in the room was deafening. As I anxiously waited to hear his first cry (which came MONTHS later) the only part of his body that wasn't shielded from me by the worried backs of the nurses and doctors and his father were his tiny twisted feet. Which were so bent they almost touched his bum.

Months of casting and tendon releases followed with years of physiotherapy and multiple surgeries, eventually lead to bone removal and permantent splints. All of which did nothing to correct the curvature of his stunted little feet.

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I still have that razor sharp 4" long pin.

Feet that at first scared me and repulsed me. It wasn't the tubes or the breathing apparatus, or the bald patches shaved into his precious hair that made me fear this unknown baby. It was the grotesque nature of his hooves that freaked me out and made me doubt my ability to love and ultimately parent this child who was so different than my previous babies.

But like all things new and strange, time and understanding lessened this fear. Soon those feet became the focal point of my love for him. The first thing I kissed when he woke up in the morning, the last thing I kissed when he went to bed.

Those crooked tootsies represented all that he was and who he would be. Instead of curled feet I saw strength of spirit, resilency and the fragility of life when ever I massaged and stretched them. Those feet became part of who we were as a family unit. Everybody understood what those crooked feet meant.

Those feet meant love, understanding, patience and tolerance. Except for when he used them as weapons and would kick them at my glasses. Then they were a big pain in my ass. Or when he was casted and I took all the kiddies to the Shriner's Circus and he decided it would be great fun to bump his casts into the man's head who was seated directly in front of us. Then they were a source of amused embarrassment. Oops.

Those diminuitive little feet meant so much. When they grew strong enough to support his weight we were able to celebrate his fragile first toddling steps at the age of four. When they were gashed open and missing bones, they represented the hope for a brighter future. When they were finally fitted for his first pair of shoes months before his death, they were cause for celebration. Through it all, they were hurdles to overcome, challenges not to be forgotten.

They were his feet; they were my reminder of so many others out there who were not as blessed as I.

As Fric and Frac were ripping apart the shoe rack in search of the coolest, fastest and prettiest sandal out there, his angel feet were a reminder of who was missing, who is still loved, who is not to be forgotten.

The kids and I found our booty (get it...booty? Couldn't resist) We walked to the front of the store and paid for our shoes, all of us excited by our finds. But as we walked out to our car, there was a little girl in leg braces similar to Bugs, being carried in by her father, with her mom walking wearily behind them.

I saw in that mom the same love, strength and fear I see when I look in the mirror. I knew the pain she would feel when she tried on endless pairs of shoes on her daughter, hoping to find ONE pair that would fit around those plastic pain's in the ass. I wanted to tell her not to bother, just go get custom shoes made, as we had to do.

But I thought better of it. I didn't want to intrude. I didn't want to take away the hope she harboured when she saw those cute pink sparkly runners she would pray to fit her daughter. To make her daughter look more "normal." To make herself feel more like the average mom.

Maybe she would have better luck than I ever did, in search of the elusive shoe to fit my special child's special feet. And if she didn't she may not welcome my advice, my taking away her search for normalcy with my insight, my knowledge.

I didn't take into account my children's interest in those shiny purple plastic splints. They raced right up to that brown haired girl and her parents and struck up a conversation.

"My brother had club feet! Does she? His splints were purple too! But they had stars on them, not kittens."

I held my breath for a second, wondering if this family would resent my children honing on their child's obvious disability. But the dad just bent down and looked my kids in the eye and asked about their little brother. They yammered away to these strangers outside the shoe store, spilling their brother's and now their story and how when Bug was finally able to get shoes he started to walk. They gushed on in the way excited kids do that once this little girl got her shoes soon she would be walking too.

I don't know if that would hold true for that little girl, but I certainly wished with all my might that it would. The little girl was fascinated with my kids, excited that some big kids were interested in her. My heart broke a little when I realized Fric and Frac missed their brother so much that a child with similar splints would speak to their hearts so deeply.

The mom reached down and stroked my son's prickly head and told them how lucky their brother was to have such nice siblings. She then scooped up her daughter and told the kids they were blessed to have such a special brother with such neat feet.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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I miss those toes.