I remember well the day they were purchased. My three-year-old daughter Kristin and I were strolling the aisles of J.C. Penney when she spied them. There was no way we were leaving the store without those shoes. Not without a scene, anyway.
The threat of a tantrum wasn’t what convinced me to buy them. We had recently purchased the video Annie, and it is understatement to say she was enthralled by that movie. She knew the words to every song, the names of all the orphans, at least half the lines. She also had her own versions of the tap dances, which she labeled “clap dancing.” As she explained in the store, she desperately needed those shiny red shoes to properly execute that activity. I could see her point.
Those inexpensive shoes well might have been one of the best investments I ever made. The bows became tattered, the soles wore thin, and the buckles and insoles disappeared completely. But it made no difference to Kristin. Even after they were too small for her, she’d cram her chubby feet into them and dance with pure joy, oblivious to the pain. By herself or with other people present, she’d shuffle her feet, flail her arms, and, of course, throw in the requisite claps. Because most of our house was carpeted, our small brick hearth became her stage.
Fast forward seventeen years, and she was a college sophomore home for summer break. We’d just had a ceramic tile floor installed in our den, and she and I stood in the doorway of the room, cleared of all furniture, and admired the hard new surface. “Man,” she said, her voice filled with awe, “wouldn’t this be a great place to clap dance?”
She declined my request for a demonstration. Although I laughed, a part of me was sad. I realized that—as is the case with most of us—somewhere on her journey from childhood to adulthood, more than her feet had outgrown her clap dancing shoes. But at least I have a priceless memento of a pint-sized free spirit who, before the phrase was ever penned, “danced like nobody was watching.”
Today, Kristin has babies of her own, the oldest almost three. He is as taken with the movie Cars as Kristin was with Annie. I’m picturing her one day in the future, cleaning out a closet and coming across a toy model of Mater or Lightnin’ McQueen. I’m betting she doesn’t throw it out.
Have a “worthless treasure” you’re not willing to part with? (It doesn’t have to be kid related.) Share, please!