lifetime of work — 20 years of standing for daily 14-hour stretches on unforgiving concrete floors when she had her own business in Asheboro; 20 years of shuffling over 97,000 square feet of warehouse when she sold furniture at a large store in Greensboro; five years of near-daily visits back and forth to doctors with my dad, which meant long treks to and from hospital parking lots (if you’ve done that, you know how many steps that is) — took a hard toll on my mother’s feet and legs.
She developed ropy varicose veins that knotted her calves so badly that walking became difficult. Her muscles cramped. Her ankles swelled. Her circulation slowed, so she wore my dad’s compression stockings. That helped a bit.
Last winter, finally able to take care of herself now that she was no longer a caretaker to anyone else, my mom had vein surgery. It was an outpatient procedure; she was back home within a few hours, and she let herself rest for the next six weeks.
In March, when the first of the tulip magnolias were popping out, my mom walked down to my house, her legs finally pain-free, her movement unimpeded for the first time in as many years as I can remember.
I laced up my own shoes and met her outside, and, together, the two of us walked the neighborhood, a .8-mile loop around our townhouse community. I noticed that the old slip-ons she was wearing were worn, scuffed brown leather flats not suitable for going very far.
You need some new shoes, I told her.
When I was a child, my mom bought all of my shoes at Big Deal Shoes, a shop that opened in Asheboro in 1958 and kept going for nearly 60 years. Seems like I had more shoes than I could count — the black-and-white saddle oxfords, the jelly shoes, the Keds with rainbow laces, the Puma sneakers — and thinking back, I couldn’t recall any shoes my mother bought for herself.
Finally, it was my turn.
I took her to Omega Sports for her first pair of good walking shoes. The clerk asked her to walk the length of the store to check her foot pronation, and, just like she used to do with me, I found myself bending forward, pressing on her big toe.
She decided on a pair of running shoes in bright pink — a cheerful change after all those years of sensible tan and brown flats, meant for work, and my mother wore her new shoes right out of the store. She said it felt like she was walking on a cloud.
Another spring is coming around, and I’m eager to see my mom out in our neighborhood again, “getting in my laps,” as she proudly tells me. I walk with her when I can, and she walks with other neighbors, but often, she goes off by herself, her pink shoes matching the blooms on the cherry trees and redbuds that flank our street, those trees standing like a line of spectators, cheering as my mom breezes past, joy in her steps, another season of moving forward.
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