Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The stolen sandals


For the past ten years or so I have been asking my mother if I could have her old leather sandals. She got them in Libya where we lived in the early 1980s, and I remember her wearing them as clearly as I can visualize any meaningful, vivid childhood moment (running in the summer rain with my sister, my father teaching me to ski downhill). She hadn't worn the sandals in about 20 years and she had stored them away in a little closet with all kinds of junk. During my occasional mother's-closet-raids I'd come across them and ask my mom if she was ready to pass them on to me. Every time she said no. At times it almost seemed as if she had forgotten that she even had them, and I think she knew that she was done wearing them. But every time she'd decide that she'd hold onto them for a little while longer.



I have a lot of my mother's old clothes. We share the same shoe size, and her clothes from the 1970s and the early 80s fit me pretty well, even if I have been taller than her since my late teens. Pretty much whatever I have wanted from her old closet in the past, I could have. Except the Libyan sandals. I can only recall one other similar occasion; one where she made me wait. I waited for a pair of late 1970s bright orange strappy heels for about ten years before she was ready to part with them. But how much longer would I have to wait for the sandals? 20 years?

When I was in Finland a month ago, I was going through my stuff in my mother's town apartment (I have dozens of cardbord boxes stored away in Finland - stuff that I haven't wanted to ship over to the US in case Chris and I relocate within the next year or two), and once again, there were the sandals. My mother spends about a dozen nights a year in the town apartment, so would she even notice if I took them? The sandals had gotten dry and brittle, the soles were coming off. The least I could do was to take them to the cobbler. So I did the unthinkable.

The cobbler did a great job reattaching the soles. As I went to pick them up, I walked there barefoot so that I wouldn't have to carry an extra pair of shoes with me. I fastened the buckles and got on my feet. All day, as I was walking the streets of warm, summery Helsinki, I kept thinking what my mother would say if she knew. Would she be angry, or would she think that it was morbidly funny that her daughter would steal from her own mother in sandal-related desperation? Would she accept the fact that the sandals might be happier now too, being fixed, worn and all?

I've seen the look on my mother's face when she sees myself or my sister wear something she used to wear and love - it is the look of somber happiness, recognition of life moving on. But I know that the sandals are special, and I think I know why: she was the happiest I ever remember seeing her back in Libya. Mom, in case you are reading this, you can have your sandals back if you want. I'm sorry I didn't ask for your permission when I took them.


I am wearing a second hand dress from Salvation Army and my mother's Libyan sandals.


9 comments:

Shey said...

Those are some beautiful sandals, not only the style but because it means so much for you and your mom. I hope she let's you have them. Your dress is also very beautiful, I love yellow in the summer.

Carolyn said...

it is wonderful that you have a little memento of your mother, particularly since you are so far away from her. And a evocative memento of your childhood too!
I hope she is happy that you are wearing them and loving them all over again.

Baby Budget Blog said...

Loving that dress, especially the hem line and those are my kind of sandals!!

www.plentyforpennies.com

Davinia said...

My mum gets the same look of pride and letting go in her eyes when I wear one of her clothes. It's so sweet. Those sandals really are wonderful and I hope you get to keep them.

Terri said...

Does Mom read your blog? I know that my daughters have helped themselves to items of mine...but they've never confessed.

Teeny said...

Naughty! But they are beautiful.

metscan said...

Perhaps your mother has some memory connected to the sandals because she has been unwilling to give them away.
Perhaps she has wanted to save that memory.
After all, sandals like the ones you now have, are not ones hard to find.
Perhaps your mother one day would have told you the secret ( if there ever even was one ).
I was taught not to take someone else´s things, not even for a loan, without asking permission first.

Elissa (ah-lee-sah) said...

What a very prettily written post. My mom had a dress that I always admired that my dad would never let me wear... finally I, like you, just made off with it. This was 6 years ago, and I've never worn it around my dad, but I suspect it reminds him of a time when he and my mom were young and in love...

fleur_delicious said...

last year, for Christmas, my mother gave me a bracelet that her uncle gave her when she was a child in the 1950s. It is a heavy silver link bracelet set with amythests, given to him by a native tribe in Peru, in thanks for the waterworks he engineered. I don't remember which city, I'll have to ask again. I always thought it was the most beautiful thing when I was a girl, I asked to borrow it to wear in my senior pictures when I was in high school, and it meant a lot when she gave it to me. It's so special to own an heirloom like that, to know the love that was in its giving (and handing down) and in the wearing.