When I saw those high heels for the first time. I was about five. It was New Year’s Eve and my Mom and Dad were going to a New Year’s party. My mom looked beautiful in her short dress, her legs encased in silk stockings and those high heels on her feet. In my young eyes she looked glamorous. Diamond earrings hung from her ears, her diamond studded watch on her wrist. But it was those high heels that I coveted. With the matching purse.
They were brown, made out of Alligator skin. The purse even had a small alligator head on the front flap and small feet in the back. Later when I was in my early teens I listened while my Mom told the story of those Alligator heels and purse. Long ago, her oldest brother joined the army to fight in World War II. He was sent to Europe to fight the Germans. There he spotted the heels and purse in a small store in one of the tiny towns he was passing through. He immediately thought of his young sister. He knew she was too young to wear them at the time, but sent them home anyways. My uncle knew that my mom, even at that young age loved fancy things. He knew it would be just the right gift, and that she would love them. She did.
My mother and uncle came from a really poor background. They lived in Upper Wisconsin in the middle of the woods. In a log cabin that was without electricity or inside plumbing. I was told he joined the army when he turned 18 to get away from the poverty and see something of the world. He also thought it was exciting in his young age to fight the enemy.
At first she played dress up with those high heels. Walking around that log cabin, playing fancy dress. When she ran away from home at the tender age of 14, she said the first thing she packed were those high heels with the matching purse. She was determined that she would make the opportunity to wear them in the big city of Chicago. I’m sure she did too. She was always a stubborn woman.
Those fancy shoes with the fancy purse has traveled quite a lot since they were delivered into my mother’s young hands. They traveled to Chicago many years ago. Back to Milwaukee. Years later they moved to Texas for a short stint. Then back to upper Wisconsin. They have seen lots of wear. Lots of dancing floors. Lots of memories made with those strappy heels.
A few years ago they made the long trip to Alberta Canada. My mom had told me she mailed something to me and to be on the lookout for it. I was never so pleased or as excited as when that box came and the first thing I pull out was those heels! I quickly searched the box and there was the matching purse! Yes! My childhood dreams became reality, those shoes were mine!
I couldn’t wear them of course. They are much too old now for that. Also, at a size 5 they were too small for me. So I decided that after 70 plus years it was time to retire them for good. They are on proud display in my living room in a glass case. On the shelf below the beloved cookbook of my Grandmothers .
Everyday when I see those wonderful shoes with the matching purse memories come flooding back. Of my childhood. My mom’s early teens. Of a barely known uncle that fought in a war so long ago and thought of his young sister. Lots of memories have left scuff marks and scratches on an Alligator hide from a country far away. Indeed, the past is a pair of heels with matching purse.