When I was a child, I lost a shoe while walking through the market. It was a busy market on a hot summer day and my mother couldn’t wait to get out of there.
I remember she complained that morning about having to go all the way to the city for something so frivolous but I forgot what we went to the market for. I remember her dragging me with her because there was no one else to look after her four-year-old child. She rushed to get me ready so we could beat the afternoon crowd. I saw her running around the house, rambling about her laborious life, trying to bring everything in order before we begin our journey. I remember quietly standing in a corner, afraid of her vexed expression, knowing that I must not get in her way.
Once the house was managed to her liking, she turned to me. Suddenly, the woman who was just moving at the speed of lightning slowed down and gently brought my shoes out. She sat me down on a chair and knelt to the ground. She held the two laces in each of her hands and looped them. “This is the bunny’s left ear and this is the right ear. Now cross the ears. One goes over the other and there! All tied up!” she said in a singsong voice as she tied my lace. Back then, to me, it seemed as though my mother could do magic. With time also, just as much as with the laces. Time would just slow down every time my mother spoke to me as if to let me bask in every moment so that I would never forget a single memory spent with her.
Suddenly, getting back into her lightning avatar, she swiftly dragged me out of the house and almost ran till the bus stop. She held my hand as we boarded the bus and didn’t let go till we reached back home later that day. Once seated on the bus, she nestled me into her lap and I was as comfortable as the dew drops on the rose petals despite being in the midst of a garden full of thorns.
When we reached the city, my mother quickly brought me to my feet and braved the crowd. All I remember was getting yanked through a herd of sweaty, mindless people who didn’t bother to look where they were stepping, which was almost always, on my feet. I raised my other arm to defend me from thick bags smacking my face. It seemed to me that my mother was walking at the speed of the choo-choo train that she bought for my last birthday.
I don’t even remember stopping to buy what we came for. Before I knew it, we were back at the bus stand waiting to board the bus back home. My mother suddenly looked at me and gasped. “Where is your right shoe?” she asked me and the color of my face disappeared. I had to look down at my feet to notice that I was missing a shoe. A beautiful white-colored shoe with colorful stripes and with laces that my mother always tied for me. When I first saw that shoe from the window of another shop in the city, I immediately knew I wanted it. Even if that meant I have to let out the loudest possible cry in the middle of this busy market and embarrass my mother.
She bought that shoe for me after I wouldn’t stop crying then, but now I was crying the same way when I lost it, knowing very well that considering how my mother’s mood has been throughout the day, I am sure to get whacked anytime now. I kept repeating that I was sorry and didn’t want to add to her troubles in between my sobs. I looked at my mother so I could anticipate the intensity of trashing coming my way but instead, I saw her face soften slowly until she burst out into laughter.
We didn’t board the bus we were waiting for. Instead, my mother picked me up and took me back to the market and bought me a new pair of shoes. This one was a black shoe with purple laces that my mother would go on to teach me to tie the same way. She also bought me my favorite vanilla ice cream which I gladly shared with her. She narrated the story every time we went to the city. Only this time her face always lightened up at the mention of the city instead of dreading it.
Today, I noticed that her shoelace was untied. So, I knelt to the ground and tied them for her. Just then, she looked at me, smiled and narrated the whole story of my lost shoe all over again. She tells me how amusing she found that I didn’t even notice when my shoe came off. She laughed, thinking about how afraid I was to disappoint her. She cried remembering my innocent face. She may have forgotten how to tie her shoelace, she may have forgotten who I was on most days, but she always remembered the story of the lost shoe to its last detail.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash