There’s no way of knowing exactly when it happened, but the shoe bug bit me in my youth. I can recall getting my first paycheck and going shoe shopping with it, however, so evidently it was well entrenched by the time I finished high school.

It intensified over the years.

Back in the late 1970s, the husband and I started visiting New England and, in those days, some shoes were manufactured in the United States, many in New England. The first time I saw a Dexter Shoe outlet somewhere in New Hampshire, I had palpitations of the heart if not an episode of genuine hysteria. The smell of fresh leather in those tidy little stores nearly put me into a trance. The outlets were plentiful and “Stop here!” became my battle cry. It was not unusual for me to return to Penn’s Woods at the end of a New England adventure with four or five pairs of new shoes.

They were never pretty shoes. They were always kind of clunky, slightly unusual, some would even say ugly examples of footwear. At one point, the husband suggested, “Just tell the clerk to point out the ugliest shoes in the store. It’ll save a lot of time.”

That phase of my life has passed, but I always notice shoes.

Part of my daily routine is picking up a student at the high school and one of the perks of that chore is seeing what the young scholars are wearing. I was looking forward to getting my fashion update when the bell rang for the first time this school year.

(Bear in mind that when I was in high school, there was a strict dress code. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses and boys couldn’t wear jeans with rivets. Shorts were for gym class. I also recall that back-to-school shopping meant five new outfits and one pair of shoes.)

The dismissal bell sounded and the teens came pouring out of the school. Most of the girls wore shorts as did lots of the boys. (What would Mr. Swinsick or Mr. Jacobs or Mr. Hartz have thought?) Darned few of the kids appeared to be wearing new clothes.

Then I looked at their feet. Shoes, glorious shoes! And every darned pair looked brand new! There were gladiator sandals, shoe-boots, flip-flops of varying styles and sneakers or athletic shoes or whatever you call them. There was not a white pair of Nike, Adidas, Puma or any other kind of “tennis” shoe, but there were quite a few bright red ones. Finally, something I could relate to my own school days when PF Flyers and Keds were the brands of choice. Canvas shoes came in three colors then: red, white and navy blue.

Although I wanted to give a thumbs up and commend some of them on their footwear choices, I didn’t want to become known as “that crazy old woman who has a shoe thing goin’ on.”

That will be my little secret.

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