Thursday, May 3, 2012


We stuck our feet out the car window--three pairs of 8th-grade feet, three different colors of high-top Chuck Taylors, three different girls on our way to play in a volleyball game where, I am fairly certain, we lost. We were not the winning-est middle-school volleyball team. But we had a hell of a good time getting there.

Two of my closest girlfriends and I decided to make Converse All-Stars in bright colors part of our back-to-school shopping lists. My best childhood friend chose red; she was the undisputed leader of our group and red matched her alpha-girl personality and aggressive athleticism. She was a warrior, but with a big, bleeding heart underneath the ferocity.

My other friend had a pair of teal ones. She was the girliest of the three of us, pretty, soft-spoken, pastel, and kind.

I had the yellow pair. That was my signature color. It was happy. It was sunny. When I wore it, I felt like I could be the very best me--the optimistic me, the laughing me, the spotlight-stealing me. I didn't feel yellow every day, but I certainly wanted to. Yellow represented who I most wanted to be.

I wore that pair of yellow Chucks until the soles came off. By the time they were no longer wearable, that particular late-80s fashion trend had passed and no one wore them anymore. I went on a quest in high-school to find another pair like them, but no other pair of sneakers I could find in stores were quite as fitting for me as that pair of yellow high-top All Stars.

Which is why I squealed in delight a couple of weeks ago when a friend from work showed me her bright green Chuck Taylors. They're back! And they're once again fabulous! I knew I had to have them.

I am not much of a shopper. I do not like to spend money on myself. Yet every now and then, a girl just has to have shoes. Especially when said shoes make a girl's heart ache from fond memories of joyful afternoons setting out on an adventure with feet recklessly hanging out of the car windows.

On a recent day that I woke with my heart heavy from my mother's loss, I went in search of these shoes. Shoes that wouldn't just serve as an ironic-but-not-really-because-I-kinda-think-they're-awesome fashion statement. Shoes that took me back to a time in my life when I can truly say I was the most carefree and radiantly happy.

I went into this venture thinking I would get the red ones. I am a red girl now. That color gives me strength and confidence and helps me remember that I, too, am a warrior. It makes me think of fighting a blood cancer and kicking its ass.

Or maybe the dark blue ones. Blue makes me think of my dad, and our shared love of the UK Wildcats, and the last color I saw him wear in this world.

But the Chucks I brought home, the ones I put on and showed my husband, saying, "Oh my God, do these shoes totally look like me or what?", were the classic black ones. Seriously, if you've never met me and have no idea what I look like, think of a pair of black low-top Chuck Taylors sticking out from dark-washed bootcut Levis. And there you go. We've met.

It seems trivial to write about shoes, I know. But finding a soul mate in a pair of Converse is magical and healing.

After finding the shoes, I came back home and fell into a deep sleep. Shopping on a rainy Saturday is my Ambien. I had my first dream about my mother since she died, and I woke up needing to sob but so full of grief that I didn't even have the energy to cry.

In the dream, I had come home after Ainsley's swim practice. Jason stood in the kitchen holding our phone.

"I know it's not possible, and I don't know how it happened," dream Jason said, "but your mother called while you were gone and left you a message."

He played the message we both know could not have been sent by a dead person. My mother's voice filled the room, saying,

"I just want you to know I got here okay. I was hoping I'd catch you at home because I really wanted to hear your voice. But I know you're busy and I'll call you back later."

I know, right?

I wandered around for a while, completely out of sorts. I was comforted. But also made more raw. My heart told me that my mother had just reached out to me. I had no idea how I was going to make it through the night, and have friends over, and pretend that I was okay when I could not have been any less okay.

I cooked dinner. I drank a beer. I put on my new shoes. And, for a little while, I felt whole again. Every time I looked down, I thought, Oh, hello me. There you are. You're not lost after all. You're still who you used to be, just a little darker now.

My world is no longer, and probably will never again be, yellow. For some time, it will probably be black. That sounds depressing, I know. But it's okay. I have the shoes to match.

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