I’m wearing my favourite shoes today.
My mom took me to buy them to play Liesl in The Sound of Music nearly twenty years ago. They’re Nine West, plain black lace-up ankle boots with a 1 inch heel and squared toe. They are both delicate and sturdy, 1990s fashion forward and Victorian. The perfect character shoe. And they actually fit my abnormally tiny feet. In fact, these shoes feel like a second skin.
These shoes first danced in Austria with Rolf in ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and clipped along with the other von Trapp children in ‘Lonely Goatherd’. In a stage adaptation of Jane Eyre, they were somehow perfectly suited to play Helen Burns AND Adèle Varens AND Diana Rivers up in Yorkshire. They dutifully skittered around under a long gown in Much Ado About Nothing somewhere in Italy. And up in Scotland, they managed ballet in Brigadoon beneath Bonnie Jean’s petticoats. Then they carried Bianca all the way to the Wild West in The Taming of the Shrew. They found themselves back on the Yorkshire moors on the determined feet of Mary Lennox, conjuring spirits and consoling Colin in The Secret Garden. They hopped over to Ireland to be rather lovesick in Dancing in Lughnasa. And they hopped back over to Morse’s little feet in 17th Century London to fight the plague in One Flea Spare. They even climbed the hills of Appalachia as Barbara Allen in Dark of the Moon… twice!
Later, they became my audition shoes, shuffling my nervous body into those white rooms of terror. In some spaces, their demonstrative ‘clack-clack’ on a wooden floor is amplified, and they rang out most appallingly as I fled an audition for Spring Awakening in New York. I overheard the moderators laughing at the commotion.
Besides my momentarily burning cheeks, I didn’t mind the laughter because these shoes make me feel confident. These shoes contain the best parts of me. They make me stand a little straighter. They hold within them the lives I’ve lived, the places I’ve traveled in the hearts of the character’s I have played. I love these shoes.
These days, my beloved shoes are a bit scuffed and laces are frayed. The leather is wrinkled and the heels are worn down. Some of the stitching is unraveling. But rather than notice the imperfections of age, I find myself simply astonished that they’ve held up as well as they have. When the saleslady brought out the box, I little imagined that I’d be wearing them 20 years hence on an ordinary day in London.
Today is an ordinary day, but there is an extraordinary little secret inside of me with these shoes on my feet. It’s the secret of potential and hope, of life lived and a life yet to live. It’s the secret of all the passions contained inside of me as I quietly sit at my desk, invisible to those around me, these people who can’t quite remember my name after 3 years at this office job.
Maybe they can’t remember my name because I am so many people in one person. A vast warehouse of characters waiting to be plucked off the shelf and learned and lived. And I love them all dearly, these characters in the wings, more than I love myself. Because they are my best self, myself, a self that could not endure without their support. A self that has a greater knowledge of the world and shares a pulse with the collective heart.
These favourite shoes. My self.