Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Icing on the Shoes

I published my first magazine (only one copy) when I was in 6th grade. Titled "Dogs," it contained nothing but clipped magazine photos of dogs pasted onto construction paper and newly captioned by me.

A few months ago, I posted my second homemade publication "SmackinArt Zine: Poetry & Essay Issue" on So far, no one has purchased one. Bummer. I still have hope though... you know the thing with feathers... the thing that floats.

With that, here is one of the included essays: Icing on the Shoes. Enjoy!

"It was all about the shoes.
Dorothy learned two lessons that day in Oz: 1) there’s no place like home; and 2) some women will go to extraordinary lengths for a pair of shoes.

I think the Wizard of Oz is probably the most famous fictionalized account of shoe envy. Coincidentally, I was reminded of my own one-time obsession with shoes when an envelope arrived in the mail last week. My Aunt Mara Nell sent me some old newspaper clippings that she had found. Among the clippings was a published photo from my Uncle Aaron’s birthday party. I was six-years-old. I was the only person in the photo that wasn’t smiling.

I laughed when I saw the photo. I thought, “I guess I’ve never liked having my photo taken.” Then, I began to remember why I wasn’t smiling: Barbie shoes.

As general manager of the local Brown Shoe Factory, my uncle oversaw the manufacture of several styles of women’s shoes. His wife, my Aunt Helen, had requested the baker decorate his birthday cake with Barbie shoes.

I loved Barbie and everything that came with her, especially her candy-colored plastic shoes. However, her shoes always perplexed me as they wouldn’t stay on her overly-arched feet. I’d dress Barbie in a new outfit, put on her shoes and within an hour her feet were bare. My Barbie may have had 2 lovely homes, a dune buggy, and case of clothes, but she lacked shoes.

When my Aunt Helen set the cake on the table, I saw the shoes spread across the top. Every shoe was a different style and color. I had Barbie outfits for each pair.

I ran to fine my mom and pulled her over to the cake. She mumbled what a clever cake and started to walk away. “Mom!” I whispered. “Ask Uncle Aaron if I can have those shoes.”

“Oh, Tina,” she replied. “I’m sure he’ll give those to you.”

I smiled. I couldn’t wait to get home and line the shoes up in Barbie’s house. I wouldn’t lose these shoes. I was older now.

My mom pulled me over to our table. It was time to eat. I sat half turned around in the chair, so I could see the cake behind me. I nibbled on my roll.

The adults seemed to eat in slow-motion. They were too busy talking and laughing. I pulled on my mom’s shirt and whispered, “When are we going to eat cake?”

“Later, Tina,” she answered.

“Can I have my cake now?” I asked.

“Finish your dinner or no shoes,” she shushed.

My stomach growled. I looked at my plate with the chicken leg and mashed potatoes. I grabbed the leg and started crunching.

Finally, the plates were cleared and coffee was served. Someone turned off the lights and the candle light filled the room. We sang Happy Birthday. I sang the loudest of all. I was minutes away from getting my shoes.

My Aunt Helen took the Barbie shoes off one by one, setting them on a plate. I felt like I would explode as I watched her cut the cake. A slice of cake was set in front of me. It smelled like sugar and candle wax.

My mom was scooping ice cream. She plopped a giant vanilla scoop on top of my cake. “Can I have the shoes now?” I asked.

“In a minute, Tina,” answered my mom.

The door behind my aunt opened. Their next door neighbors walked in with their 10-year-old daughter Beth.

My aunt spun around and my uncle got up right away. They met at the cake. Everyone was hugging. He pointed to the half cut cake and beamed.

I turned back around and took a bite of ice cream. I got a weird feeling in my stomach. I looked up just as Beth was sitting down in front of me. She had two plates. One plate held a piece of cake and the other had a clump of icing-covered shoes.

“Thanks, Beth,” I said.

“For what?” she answered.

“The shoes,” I replied. “You brought over my Barbie shoes.”

“No,” she said, “These are my shoes. Your uncle just gave these to me.”

I swallowed. I was betrayed. The shoes were mine. I was family. I pushed my plate away, put my head on the table and started to cry. My mom rushed over.

“What’s wrong, Tina?” she said. Then, she noticed Beth’s plate of shoes.

“Oh, Tina. You don’t want those dirty old shoes anyway,” she shushed.” They’re covered with icing.” She carried me to the bathroom. I blew my nose. She promised to take me to Estes next week to look for Barbie shoes.

We came back out and sat down. My ice cream had melted and was running off my plate. I closed my eyes and listened to Beth suck the icing off the shoes.
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