Gladys leapt from the bed and made her way to the closet she shared with Matilda. Being the little sister she often got her older sister’s hand-me downs, but not her shoes. Matilda was a good four sizes bigger than her foot wise. No she wasn’t four foot taller but wore a size eight and a-half where Gladys had a little foot and barely wore a size five. She was diminutive. Not in personality or energy but in stature. Gladys and Matilda would talk their older brother Buck into driving them to the most fashionable store in town, Grigsby’s Rag Doll, that’s where Matilda’s clothes were purchased.
The Rag Doll was where all the cool girls shopped. It was upbeat and smelled like leather and Dr. Pepper. The sales clerks were cheerleaders and in Gladys’ eyes rivaled New York models that landed on the cover of Seventeen. She would paw through the racks wishing something in the store would fit her, but it never did. Matilda on the other hand could find a skirt or a top that was just perfect. She would ask the clerk to put it on “hold” and then we would go home to beg Nurse Meme to go buy it next payday. Matilda would use logic on Nurse Meme. She would tell her what a good deal it was and of course she would share it with Gladys when she got big enough to wear it. Gladys would agree and nod along with the argument Matilda made as to why said item was a good purchase. Not thinking that she might be 50 before it would fit her. It didn’t matter, someday she would get to wear whatever it was that was the need of the moment. Gladys would argue that it was for both of them, that they needed said item or they would simply die of embarrassment for wearing the same old shirt, sweater, dress etc. even though she rarely if ever got to wear the item.
This cool spring morning when Gladys made her way to the shared closet she didn’t see the green K-mart skort with the matching yellow top or the Kenny’s sandals she saw the cute outfits that were not her size. There was no Marsha Brady jumper with the polyester wide lapel blouse hanging there, at least not in Gladys’ size. She could live with that. She could live with the homemade bell bottom pants Nurse Meme made her because the store didn’t sell them in her size. She was used to things not fitting. She would watch with envy as Matilda pulled on her Dacron blouse and her polyester pants carefully choosing a sweater vest to coordinate the pieces. She would spray her Straw Hat cologne and then carefully apply her Maybelline mascara carefully separating each eyelash with a safety pin to get just the right starburst effect on her blue eye shadowed eyes. She copied and imitated each movement of her older sister, trying to achieve that same look. She would look at her unruly hair and compare it to the perfectly straight hair of her sister with just the right amount of curl on the ends. How did she do it? So perfect all of the time.
She could live with all of that. She could live with the fact that her sister was athletic, pretty and popular. She could live with the fact that she could wear clothes from the cool stores. She could even live with the fact that her sister was cheerleader material. What she couldn’t live with was that her sister had a pair of Baretrap sandals. They were all the rage. Matilda had gotten a pair of Moxie’s and a pair of blue suede lace up shoes that perfectly matched a blue velvet dress she wore to a banquet and though envious Gladys was okay with that. It was the Baretraps that did her in. Those brown three buckle wooden souled platform sandals the thing Gladys coveted.
So on that spring morning when she went to the closet she didn’t see the plain old little girl sandals waiting for her but instead saw the Holy Grail of shoes. She sat on the floor and slid her foot onto the cool wood sole and pulled the ankle strap as taught around her ankle as possible she grabbed the door handle and pulled herself up onto the shoes. She stood a little straighter and a whole lot taller perched on top of the platforms. She felt as if she were at the top of Mount Olympus. She stood there in her shorty pajamas with her hair sticking up all over her head and decided she was going to borrow her sisters shoes and wear them to school. She turned to tell her sister and promptly fell off of her platforms and right on to the floor.
She landed with a thud which cause Matilda to stir from her place on the bed. “What are you doing” she yelled at Gladys. “Nothing” Gladys replied and again she stood and shoving her feet as far into the shoes as she could without sliding out the bottom she tried to walk toward the bathroom. She took one step, then repositioned her foot back into the shoe and then tried to take another. She was able to take two steps then three and then she hit the floor again. She didn’t try to get back up this time. Instead she removed the shoes from her feet and threw them at the closet. Frustrated and jealous she stormed into the bathroom to get ready for school. In her mind all she could thing was dumb old shoes. I didn’t want to wear them anyway. Now I have to wear my stupid little girl shoes. I’m never gonna be cool. I’m never gonna be glamorous like Matilda.
Matilda appeared in the bathroom door “did you throw my shoes” she asked as she bent to brush her teeth.
“Yes” snapped Gladys in reply
Matilda turned mouth foaming and cinnamon odor of Close-up toothpaste filling the room and said “well before you walk in someone else’s shoes you better make sure they fit.”
Gladys learned a lesson that day and many times thereafter. It isn’t always as glamorous as you think it’s going to be to walk in someone else’s shoes and that if the shoe doesn’t fit, it isn’t the shoe for you.