For the Love of a Shoe

There was a time during my early adolescence when buffalo shoes were all the rage. I adored them. But I’d had foot issues from infancy and my parents refused to let me get a pair of wedges, certainly not after years of paying for costly orthopedic footwear. They believed buffaloes would undo the corrective work Katz’s hideous rubber sole shoes had wrought, though it’s likely the doctor had also told them as much.

I can still recall my desperate longing to own a pair anyway. I was convinced they were the secret to the insouciance all the other girls my age possessed, an aura I felt I lacked in spades. My envy was powerful, and I can reach for the memory of it as if it were a leaden, physical object I once held in my hands.

And yet, there was no moving my parents, no matter how much I begged and fought. Buffaloes remained elusive that entire spring.

One summer evening, I went with them to the erstwhile Bradlees department store. I hid some of my babysitting money in the top of my bra before we left the house, a trick I learned at an early age from my grandmother, who used to do this with her bus fare. While my parents shopped, I ran to the shoe department to purchase a pair of knockoff buffaloes in my size (Bradlees did not carry the original Buffalo brand). I didn’t even have time to try them on.

At the agreed hour, I met my parents at the exit. I tried to keep calm and casual. After all, I was hoping to pull off the greatest stealth operation of my youth.

“What’s in the bag?” they asked me. Anxious and fearful I was going to lose my only chance at those shoes, I clung to that bag for dear life, the plastic handles cutting deep into the palms of my hands.

But there was no point. The battle of the buffaloes was lost. My father walked with me to customer service, where I returned them. In a final plea, I promised never to wear them if he let me make the purchase. I just wanted to own them, like every other girl I seemed to know. Alas, I crawled into the car with tears in my eyes, placing my sadness, disappointment, and rage on the seat next to me.

I was too young to know that by fall, buffaloes would be out of style, that all I needed to do was be patient and this yearning, too, would pass.

Flash forward to this afternoon, when these caught my eye at Marshall’s. Not the exact pair I remember, but close enough. And there were others, similar styles, some with higher wedges, others lower. The new buffalo wave of 2019.

With childish delight, I tried them on, admiring how they looked. But they weren’t comfortable. I felt unstable, certain I wouldn’t be able to walk far in them. Yet I considered buying them anyway. I mean, who’s going to stop me now?

Instead, I let them transport me back in time, where I forgot that I’m middle-aged, that I have bunions, that I long ago relegated heels to the back of my closet.  And yet, it was with the insouciance of youth that I placed the buffaloes back in the box and returned them to the shelf. I took my seat at the wheel of the car and drove home with a new pair of Crocs instead, my heart happy, and my feet, too.


6 thoughts on “For the Love of a Shoe

  • the power of trends. back when i worked at nickelodoen, there was a trend of having r eally (i guess you would call it this) low-waisted jeans, so when you bent down (crouched),literally your whole rear was exposed, especially if you were wearing a thong. My lovely absolutely stunning friend Crista wore these all the time. And while I would never buy them, I kept thinking, what are these girls going to do with these pants next year? I am glad adults are smart enough not to leap onto every trend wagon (well, except my SIL Marci). Meawnhile, neither Hallie or I have ever had the shirts with the shoulders cut out.



    • I totally don’t get the shirts with half the fabric missing, nor do I understand the current pantsuit thing that assumes we all want to dress like Suzanne Somers on “Three’s Company.”


  • This reminds me of Esprit jeans, and then Guess, which were very fashionable from 1986-1989. I couldn’t afford them, and then when I tried some on…they never fit!! There was no room for someone well-endowed in the tuchas!!!

    I was so sad, felt so left out. But now I look back and wonder, “What was I thinking!?!”


    • Ah, yes, Esprit! Anything Esprit! And thank you for the laugh (I sure needed it today). Looking back gives us a beautiful view. But you don’t get that in the moment and it’s hard, sometimes anyway.


  • Isn’t it wonderful to revisit a memory, and just be able to put it nicely away with a coda.
    Loved your story.


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