They were my favorite pair of shoes – lace-on runners. They were comfortable for running from the boys in kiss tag but just as comfortable when chasing them away if they bothered one of my friends. To my 8-year-old heart they were heaven on the feet. And they were orange – bright orange canvas runners. My color-loving heart overflowed every time I saw them.
Those runners took me everywhere – over to Joyce’s house to bake squiggly creepy crawlers in her crafting oven, riding bikes with the gang on our two block long dead-end street, across the back lot to Bridget’s house to see how they skinned a rabbit, to Albertson’s for a tasty mini-loaf of bread or to the local candy store for apple or cinnamon Jolly Rancher bars or red licorice.
Those runners carried me into the fields with Joyce, Tina and Tia to talk to the boys who were chasing snakes. The others would run off squealing properly for little girls’ in those days when the boy’s would put the snakes in their hair but even then I wasn’t going to show I was afraid. I would lift those snakes into my hands and look at them before dropping them back on the ground. Those shoes had more than one snake crawl across them.
My runners matched my vest when Chris and I proudly crossed the other children after school. As grade 3’s it was a position of honor to get to be a part of the crossing guards and I had won one of those cherished positions. They were on my feet the day Jeff walked me home from school, the first real crush of my life and for one week I got to secretly call him my boyfriend to my girlfriends.
Orange runners. My little girl’s heart’s dreams.
Across from our new school was an old house. As kids we had all kinds of stories as to why the house was abandoned but until that fateful day we had succeeded to stem our curiosity. I don’t know what changed it that day but a few of us decided to go exploring. Most of the walls were falling down and the wooden floor held huge gaps where boards had been pried up and piled in littered disarray. Echoes of story sound in my mind as we tried to decide what each room was and who had lived there.
We were so full of story we didn’t think about being careful about where we walked until I stepped down on a nail up near my toes running right through the bottom and the top canvas of my orange shoes. Looking down in dismay, all I could think of was getting that nail out without damaging my precious shoes any further. I started to slip my foot out of the shoe so I could lift it carefully. There was one problem though. My foot wouldn’t slip out of the shoe. Plan two wouldn’t work either, I couldn’t lift the shoe up off the nail.
Knowing we weren’t supposed to be in the old house we faced a dilemma. How to get my foot off that board when I couldn’t get my foot out of the shoe and we couldn’t get the shoe off the nail. Finally the inevitable choice was made. Someone had to go and get my mom. She would know what to do.
Being a nurse, my mom took one look at the situation and placement of the nail and made a guess as to the problem. She cleared the rest of the rusted chipped head off the nail and gave my shoe and foot a mighty tug up and off of it. Sure enough, pulling off the shoe we found the nail had not just gone through my shoe but through the skin between the biggest and second toes. I had been impaled on that nail by just enough skin to hold me locked in place.
I think that was one of my first tetanus shots in the list of such memorable incidence in my life. As much as I don’t like needles though, the true disaster of the incidence was that my shoes had torn enough that mom threw them away. The only momento I have left of them is a small raised skin area between my toes.
My orange runners – to this day I feel a happy warmth when I see the bright colours in the shoes on the shelves always watching for a pair with just that right orange. No matter that I am in my late 50’s. If I find them, I might get a pair. I’ll just use a bit more discretion on where I wear them this time.