I must have been about 10 or 11 years old at the time.
I remember very clearly how I felt and what I thought then. And now, as a 31-year old - as a parent - I see the whole thing in a completely different light.
I was in grade school. That time in your life when peer acceptance seems to be more important than anything else. And I had a prized possession...
My penny loafer shoes.
They were THE coolest thing to me. They went with every outfit I had and looked good with any style. I loved wearing them so much that I had worn a hole through the sole of one of the shoes. But it didn't bother me at all. They didn't hurt to wear. They still looked cool. So what was the harm of a little hole?
My Mom found out and informed me that I needed a new pair of shoes. What I didn't realize at the time was that my parents were going through a rough patch, financially. A new pair of fancy penny loafers were not really a possibility.
Who hasn't dealt with tight times when it comes to money? With a bad recession going on and self-employment, of course the last thing my parents would want to throw money at was shoes that I thought "looked cool". (However, I knew nothing of these rough times until much, much later in my life. Just one of the many signs that my Mom and Dad knew how to raise their children well).
So my Mom took me to Woolco to buy a pair of shoes. An affordable pair of shoes that served their purpose. That supported my feet and laced up and fit me well.
In other words, shoes that embarrassed the crap out of me as a 10-year old. They weren't penny loafers... so when I walked into class the next day with my new shoes, I tried to hide my feet with every awkward step.
I was horrified at the time. I had these shoes that just couldn't live up to my penny loafers. And my parents made me wear them.
But now. Now, as an adult, I see things so differently. Mom and Dad were dealing with some rough times. Money can be one of the main things that divides a marriage. That pulls apart a family. And they were just doing what they could.
I realize now that they had a lot of stress and not a lot of money. But they were doing what only really good parents can do. They were providing for me. They were making sure I was taken care of. They were giving me what I needed.
And in turn, they were giving me the self confidence and assurance I needed as a child to know that I would always be taken care of, that I would always be loved, that I wouldn't need to fend for myself so long as they were there. So I could grow into a confident, independent, happy woman who knew that if all else in my life failed me, I had parents who loved me unconditionally and who would always, always take care of me.
What more can someone ask for? Really.
And yet, it took me about 20 years to realize that that's what they were doing for me. 20 long years to discover that they weren't meanies who made me wear embarrassing shoes to school. They were parents who provided for their children no matter what - even when life was pretty hard for them. And they never, ever let their kids carry any of the burden at all.
On the surface, they were buying me a pair of shoes.
But what my parents were really doing for me was giving me an incredible life. And making me a better parent, too.
All with a simple pair of Woolco shoes.