There are three things in life you should never delay: filing your taxes, visiting the doctor when things start to flutter, ooze, or become malodorous, and buying special occasion shoes for boys. Left untended, the first will imprison you, the second will hospitalize you, and the third will kill you.
Knowing this, I should have bought the shoes for Nicholas’s baptism in January. I should have shopped online from the comfort of my own home, the cost of shipping my fee for peace of mind. But, no. Something happened, although I am not sure what, and that something turned into that other thing which turned into two colds, the stomach flu, and the evening of February 5th. The evening of February 5th coincided with the eve of Nicholas’s baptism and left me exactly two hours to find a pair of dress shoes for a boy.
And herein lies one of the most crucial differences in raising daughters and sons. You tell the mother of a little girl she has two hours to find dress shoes and she says, “How will I ever decide what to buy in two hours? The options are endless!” You tell the mother of a little boy she has two hours to find dress shoes and, after looking at both pairs, will calmly turn to you and ask, “If I burn the Wolverines off the sides, do you think the smell of plastic will linger more than 24 hours?”
Did I mention I needed them in soft white?
I can best describe boys dress shoes by associating them with small pockets of male society not known for their imitable taste in fashion. Accountants have the market on brown shoes cornered. I imagine that, when drawing up the designs for Boy Dress Shoe No.2 in Brown, the designer sat back in their chair, arms akimbo, and thought, What would a guy named Stanley wear? The Reference Librarian at most universities is what comes to mind if I am looking for something in black. Something about the way those rubber soles cotton-ball their way across the Stride Right floor say Dewey Decimal to me. For white shoes it is, hands down, the orderly in a psychiatric hospital. Sterile fields of solid white just waiting for an affective disorder to numb.
I went to nine stores and came up empty handed. The entire time I imagined my sister-in-law, who was having her daughter baptized alongside Nicholas, sipping wine and idly flipping through a People Magazine on the sofa. Nicholas is not an accountant, librarian, or nurse. He’s a Catholic (now) and on Friday night he needed white shoes for his baptism. I decided Nicholas would not be a man of numbers, letters, or science. He would be a little boy in tan sneakers from Payless, a look that suited him just fine. It helped that he and his cousin looked like angels. No one ever looked at their feet. (Not that Addison, a girl, had anything to worry about.)