Her Hands

I’m preparing for a visit from my sister. She lives across the other side of the country and she and I are both finding that as we get older, we are softer to one another. More compassionate about the challenges we face, more cognisant of the similarities than all the differences. I find myself seeing my sister through our mother’s eyes. With a special kind of maternal love and tenderness; a kindness that evaded me in my younger years.  I think we recognise that without our mother, we are the only ones who can bring Mum’s loveliness back. By being her hands, her heart… for each other.

At the local grocer’s, I was looking at the fresh cut flowers, mentally relishing the names of all the flowers Mum loved. I saw the Alstromarias, the Roses (blush pink for the wedding dress she sewed my sister) and the Leukodendrons.  I could almost hear my mother’s voice, patiently showing me how to trim the stems, why we do; chatting as she arranged stems lovingly in a vase. She loved flowers.  I bought the pink roses, the pink and plum-toned Alstromarias she favoured in her garden (they last such a long time, she would say… a brilliant cut flower) and the green and deep burgundy Leukodendrons.  I bought them on behalf of my Mumma, a tribute of her love for my sister.

Earlier, at the hospital pharmacy, my eye was drawn to all the things that Trissy would love. I chose some sugar free jubes, smiling at the memory of how Mum used to squash jubes and marshmallows between thumb and forefinger before popping them into her mouth with a flourish. I chose some jelly beans, because Mum liked them too, she kept them in her handbag and would sneak a few in at an opportune moment. I chose some soap that smelled of Guava, a strong childhood memory portal, that scent.

I feel my Mumma close to me today, as I get ready to see her other girl. My sister and I will chat all weekend about her, about life and love and motherhood and all-the-things.  I look at my hands, looking more and more like I remember hers. The same lines. The same textures and contours. I like that. Her hands, my hands.

Just for a while this weekend; the strength of longing of two girls for their Mum will be satiated by some time spent with someone who understands. Like no other person could.

In the presence of what remains. Each other; sisters, daughters.

Mum’s hands, Mum’s heart.

Speaking of Shoes

I was sure I was ascending the stairway to heaven. This was the address for Angels for Shoes (how apt! Cue the choir of angels) …the shoe shop for big-footed girls. As we pushed open the door, I took a hopeful, anticipatory breath. This place must surely be the solution to my foot problems…!?

I was 14 years old and on my way to boarding school from the tropical turmoil of Papua New Guinea. For two years, I had been wearing shoes too small for my feet. This meant a cycle of ingrown toenails which easily infected in the heat and dirt of a third world country. It was excruciating….  almost as bad as the embarrassment I felt about my shoes. Perspective, right? For teenagers, being able to wear what the others wear is disproportionately important. I’d been wearing my jelly shoes from the last time we’d gone on leave, two years prior. When the plastic had popped under pressure from my toes, we went to the Trade Store and found some men’s karate shoes that fit me. It wasn’t shoe heaven.

Mum had done some research and found that there was a store in Sydney for people with larger feet. It was the store I was about to enter. Angels. We knew that I would need casual shoes and something for chapel. The school uniform shop stocked T-bar boats, and men’s sneakers would suffice, so they weren’t on the shopping list until we got to Melbourne.  But I had in mind a cute little pair of ballet flats and some pointy toed, kitten heels.  Everyone was wearing those.

The store was packed into a tiny two rooms. There were massive shoes everywhere. Orthotic bunion friendly lace ups, garden gumboots, shiny patent high heels, mother-of-the-bride shoes in oyster, blush and pewter. I craned my neck for the door that would lead to the cool shoes. There wasn’t one. My breath rushed out in a disappointed sigh. “Oh.” I murmured. Mum rallied, brightly suggesting I try various things. She rifled through the sale racks and emerged triumphant with a thick heeled teal court shoe, the kind your grandmother might wear to the CWA annual general meeting. With a hat.
“-these are fun!” she said. I plonked down on the padded chair to try the ‘fun’ shoes on. We emerged an hour later, with three pairs of motherly shoes that fit my feet perfectly. A pair of black patent heels (“Classics!” the shoe lady had chortled), the ‘fun’ shoes that I would never wear and some square heeled pearl ivory wedding shoes.  I resolved that somewhere out there, someday, I would find some shoes that I love.

I’ve never lost the yen for a great long shoe. I love shoes.
And when I find shoes I love that fit me, I am a goner.

Fast forward thirty odd years. My twelve year old’s feet have just grown beyond the size range of most shoe stores. This week, she has her best friend’s Bat Mitzvah to attend, so finding her some appropriate footwear is our new mission. Sometimes, you can find flats that will fit a size 11 foot in places like K-mart or The Warehouse, but I think it is time for her to have a pair of leather shoes that feel good. So we’re off to the store that actually does house angels, a store that truly warrants it’s own angel choir. Willow Shoes. This Long-Foot-Nirvana stocks everything, from the podiatry friendly Frankie4 (orthotic shoes have come a LONG way) to funky hot pink leopard brogues. I am certain we can find my girl exactly what she needs. I have in mind these sweet little flats, but I’ll be letting her choose.

Willow are online and deliver around NZ and Australia, so if you are across the ditch, or not one of their NZ locations, check out their website. Gorgeous, gorgeous things! The variety always boggles my brain! So much choice. I recently wore their shoes for a shoot. Heaven indeed! So amazing to model in shoes that fit rather than squeezing into whatever stunt shoes are in the studio.  Nothing makes you feel more like an Ugly Stepsister than squishing your feet into a Cinderella slipper.  How amazing are these heels with the blue metallic heel. Swoon!  You can see the whole shoot here, but I’ll be talking more about that on the blog soon.

Thank you Willow, for giving me happy feet. And for being there for my baby girl in our quest for better footwear.

Mission accomplished!