Sunday, August 15, 2004

Lucky like that

So it was Friday, the 13th. I had spent a day at work, discontented, disheartened, sick of having the same conversation with tourists over and over again. (Really, there are only so many times you can describe raku, tell your life story in 5 sentences, and say “Yes, this was an old schoolhouse” before you start to go a bit nuts, and imagine a geriatric ward nurse might be better suited to the job, if only for her capability to deal with amnesiacs). I was cycling home, and no doubt the sky was perfect blue and lovely, and no doubt I was ignoring this pleasant fact.

I was about to turn in to the Meadow Road (the one just after the big bridge, the road I live on) when I looked up the road another 5 metres and saw the little house by the side of the road where Patricia (Pat) Sloane lives. Pat is a woman of 84 (her birthday is this month sometime, she refuses to tell me the exact date, she says “I know how you are,” with a delighted grin) with whom I visit from time to time. She was a friend of my father’s, first; I met her when I went visiting with him, a good two years ago, before my trip to BC.

So. I thought to myself, “I haven’t seen Pat since I’ve been back [from Australia], and I’ve been ridiculously close to her house for a month and a half now. No more excuses.”

I didn’t turn down the Meadow Road. I cycled to her door, and dismounted, and rang the doorbell. She answered, and I was as elated to see her, as she was me. She invited me in, (her orange cat, Peaches, hissed at me, as usual) and we sat and talked for a while, in her living room. She has a relaxing amount of red things surrounding her, something I find comforting, not only for its soothing effect on my brain, but that she is still so alive at nearly 85 that she has such a passionate color in her pillows, in her knitting, in her clothing.

Right off the bat I knew it was a good idea to visit her; I was only about 6 sentences in to my hellos when she gave me a pertinent aphorism, something to do with your gut feeling and knowing when something is right for me. I love how she hands them to me without any effort or pretense, just something she’s learned along the way, and how I take them without any fuss. A thank you, recognition of her wisdom, suffices.

I was telling her something about me when I saw her eyes (nut brown and lively) dart to my feet, which were still wearing my white Birkenstocks. (OK, they were white, now they have a scuddy covering of brown and off-brown, from being worn in the pottery shop and before, ever since I bought them in Bondi Junction, actually.)

“Oh, I’m sorry—“ I said, “Should I take my shoes off?” I knew this was not why she was looking at them, as when I had entered I’d asked the same question and she’d said what most people around here say, “No, no, don’t bother.”

“No, no, that’s not it,” she said. “I was just wondering, what size shoe you wear?”
“Oh!” I said. “About a nine or a ten, I suppose.”

“I was just thinking,” she said, “I have a bag of old shoes in my closet that I haven’t worn in ages. Finish what you were telling me—I’m interested—and then we’ll go try them on.” Happy but apprehensive (thinking ‘old lady shoes’, thinking orthopedic and brown), I finished whatever I was blathering on about and then we went to the back room. She had me put on knee-high hose (I learned later it makes your feet slippery and hence, they slip into shoes easier), and then came the display.

These shoes were grand. They were old, and well-made, and Italian, with words like “Firenze” stamped in gold onto soles. There was a pair of snakeskin pumps. There was a low-slung pair of sandals with cream and gold thin leather that looped over the top of my foot. There were red open-toed heels. All of these, she confessed, she’d paid top dollar for in stores in Vancouver, and they’d been vanquishing in her closet pretty much ever since. She showed as proof the hardly-worn heels.

“I’m so happy I could dance!” She said, and looked it. “These were just going to go to the thrift store.”
“Me too! I feel I’ve won the lottery!” We grinned at each other like conspirators.

I biked home that evening balancing ten pairs of shoes in two big Zellars bags, hanging off my handlebars. I clickety-clacked down the hall, once I’d gotten home, beaming. Jokes were made about not having to budget for shoes for the next, oh, ten years.

Now I’m wondering: does anyone have any old shoeboxes they want to send my way?

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