She said she needed a pair to tan flats for the older girl’s sweet 16 party. That’s what I heard anyway. So when Sophie bopped into the car with her mall pals I said, Let’s see the shoes!
She pulled them out. A pair of high heels. Yes, tan. I paused. Impulsively, I gave her the look.
I thought you said flats, honey?
No. I said I needed tan shoes to go with my coral dress.
Those are really high, I mutter.
Her friend rather politely says, My mother prefers that I didn’t wear high heels, either.
(Thanks, friend. Might you have piped up at the store?)
I was instantly catapulted back to my little attic bedroom with the floral wallpaper and slanted ceilings. There, in the crawl space at the far end of my teenage hideway, I hid a pair of shocking red high heels.
My mother would have killed me. Or rather, she would have gone into full hysteria, waling about how hard she works raising us girls all by herself, and what do we have to show her for it. And so on. Then she’d pray.
I was 17 at the time. I worked at a shoe store in town. I got an employee discount. Had my mother discovered the red shoes I would have pulled out the “it’s my money” card or “you can’t tell me what to do anymore” or point out all the expensive shoes she hid in her closet for her job in the city. (Of course, I knew where to look).
Ah, my not-so little girl and her new pumps.
It was a moment of mourning.
Sitting there turning on the engine, I thought, here is my choice point. She knows how I feel. I could demand that she return them. That would cause a fuss. An angry exchange, more likely. Humiliation in front of friends; potentially more so in front of a hip sales clerk at Charlotte Russe. It would ruin her night at the party. The anticipation would have been punctured. The girls were giddy about going to an older teammate’s coming of age celebration. For weeks, they had been texting pictures of dresses, even though they only own one or two since the 8th grade dance—a mere 6 months ago.
Or I could let it go.
So I did. I took a breath. I thought about my red high heels, and all the other secrets I had in order to preserve whatever relationship I had with my mother. In the 30 seconds it took me to back out of the parking space and scan their bright faces, I thought: These little ladies will wear their high heels for about 5 minutes. Then they’ll dance barefoot.
And they did.