25 November 2005

You can't judge a book by it's cover.

I was in the first grade. We had already moved quite a few times. I am not sure what city I was living in while attending first grade. I remember walking to school. I remember the horrible shoes I had. They were those black and white oxfords, some people called them saddle shoes. Heavy, heavy, heavy leather shoes. My mother said they'd never wear out. I used to scuff them along the ground when I would swing just so they'd wear out. Why? Well it was simple. Not one other girl in my class had saddle shoes. They all wore cute little patent leather shoes. You know the ones, shiny and black with a cute little cut out around the toe, or a bow. They wore those pretty thin nylon stretchy socks with the ruffle. They were very girly shoes. I knew if I had a pair I'd find favor among my peers and make all kinds of wonderful friends. Alas it was not to be. I was shy, I had already learned what divorced meant. I knew our family was different. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't a pariah by any means, I was just that quiet little thing along the wall, waiting for my brother to show up.

Then came Easter of that year. I was informed we would be getting Easter outfits. You couldn't go to church without proper Easter attire. A cute little dress, a bonnet of some sort, and some new shoes. Remember, you had to look good for Easter Sunday. It wasn't like we were active members of any church. We would pick a church at random and attend Easter services. It could be any church. In fact, by the time I was 11 or so we had gone to every church you can imagine. So it didn't matter to me, I was getting a new outfit! Yay.

We went shopping and got a perfect dress and hat. Now on to shoes. My mom kept saying my shoes were still good and that I really didn't need shoes. Ugh. Here we go again! But then something caught her eye. She found a sale on shoes. Shoes she, as a single mom, could afford. I got the cutest patent leather shoes you can imagine. I got home put on the cute socks and my shoes and called everyone to come look. They were so perfect. I slept with them on for three days. Never before had I had such perfect shoes. Only, I couldn't wear them to school. They were for special occasions only.

By the time second grade rolled around we had moved again. I had different shoes. These ones were leather also, but cuter than saddle shoes. They were MaryJanes. I really like them. I wore them out about half way through the year. My mom could not afford new shoes. She wasn't getting child support and there was not a way to buy new shoes. So I learned how if you cut out cardboard in the shape of the bottom of your shoe you can slip it inside and pretend they were okay. But they weren't. Some kids saw them and couldn't believe I had holes in my shoes. It was then I learned how important it was to keep up appearances. I quit playing on the swings. I kept my feet flat on the floor. It took a lot of energy to always remember that no one should see the bottom of my feet.

I learned so much from such a simple thing. I learned how people judge you by your appearance, and how unfair that is. I learned that people seldom want questions answered, that they would make up their own. I learned what it meant to be the poor kid. I learned that my brother would always try to protect me from everything. But he couldn't always keep kids from laughing. But what I really learned was that you should never judge a person by their appearance. And that there is always more than one side to any story. And that when someone wears the same thing everyday, all the time, it's okay. I learned that sometimes the best things don't come wrapped in pretty packages. I learned that people were more important that things. I learned how to ask the right questions. You know, the questions, people want you to ask. The kinds of questions that don't embarrass you, the questions that empower you. I learned so much when I was seven. Those lessons are hard to learn, but they make you a better person, more able to be empathetic. Unfortunately, not everyone learns them, but I'm glad I did.