© 2010, Wanda L. Harrell
Looking back, my passion for beautiful shoes seems to have begun on a cold, snowy day in Pennsylvania when I was in the sixth grade. That morning, my mother insisted I wear a pair of her shoes, bulky black oxfords that laced. She said my feet would be warmer. Granted, my feet might be warmer, but I was not pleased as I laced up what I considered ugly, old woman shoes that morning. When my classmates noticed the shoes, several of them laughed. Red-faced, I tried to make the best of a horrible situation throughout the entire day. Without a moment’s hesitation, I removed those shoes immediately when I got home, and never did they go on my feet again, but the damage had been done. My peers’ laughter left me with an invisible scar that was nothing less than as hideous as the shoes.
A couple of years later, when I reached my 13th birthday, my sister asked me what I wanted now that I was a teenager. With a little girl’s dreamy mind, and remembering the oxford incident, I answered, “A closet full of pretty shoes.”
In the mid 70s, it seemed as though most women I knew had an Etienne Aigner handbag or shoes. The lucky ones had both, but I had neither. Since the ugly, old woman shoes episode, I always had nice shoes, but not one pair of Etienne Aigner shoes in their signature color sporting their little A in a horseshoe trademark were in Wanda’s closet.
I yearned, I wished, I hoped, I even prayed for an Aigner product. Any of their leather goods would do, but I really wanted shoes.
The Christmas of 1976 arrived. Sitting by the Christmas tree, I handed the gifts out to my children and husband. Finally, my turn arrived. After ripping the bright holiday paper from a box from my parents, I held a burgundy colored box with Etienne Aigner across the top. My hands trembled as I carefully lifted the lid. When I saw the contents, my eyes and heart conflicted. There, before me was a pair of blue bedroom slippers with the K-Mart tag placed in the Aigner box. I tried to control myself for my children’s sake, but quiet tears of disappointment flowed that Christmas Eve.
Time marched on until Christmas of 1980. Again, the tradition of handing out the gifts took place on Christmas Eve, but underneath the tree, this time was a card from my husband. When I opened the card, out of it fell a fifty-dollar bill and a note to spend the money on a pair of Aigner shoes. This time, my tears were tears of joy. I was antsy, but had to wait until the day after Christmas. With a broad smile on my face, I set out for Orange Park Mall. With in a short while, I had a pair of Aigner shoes, signature antic red pumps with straps around the ankle. Wearing them, I walked proud. I wore them to church and almost every single day when I was a Realtor in the 80s. My heart was broken when I eventually wore them out. It took me several years to build the courage to throw them out.
My mother gave me one of her Aigner handbags, and a friend from childhood gave me an Aigner wallet and key fob for my birthday one year. I still have all three of those items, but none was a pair of Aigner shoes. Life went on and changed; my children grew to adulthood, I went through a divorce in 1998 and moved from the house that had been home for 22 years to a condo. However, one thing remained the same; I still craved another pair of Aigner shoes.
One day shortly after my move, a longtime friend, Paula, and I decided to go to an outlet mall up I-95 in Darien, Georgia. I was ecstatic when I saw an Etienne Aigner store with nothing but Aigner leather goods. Eagerly browsing through the store, I came upon what I considered the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen. However, when I checked the price, they were out of my budget. Disappointed, I thought of those shoes many times and probably dreamt of them once or twice. The black leather shoes with a tortoise toe and heel had left a lasting impression on me.
Several months later, Paula and I made another excursion to that same outlet mall. Knowing what was on my mind, she and I went straight as arrows to the Aigner store. The store no longer the exact shoe I had been thinking about all those months, but they did have a suede version of the same shoe. Cautiously, I lifted the display shoe to check the price, and much to my delight and amazement, this pair was in my price range. After trying them on in my size, I was all eyes as I watched the clerk ring them up and place the box in an Aigner bag. While Paula and I shopped that afternoon, I found it difficult to concentrate on anything. My mind and heart were on the shoes I carried.
After Paula dropped me off at my condo, I entered, and with Aigner bag in hand, I hurried up the staircase to my bedroom. I was in my own kind of heaven on earth as I plopped down in the middle of my bed. Sitting cross-legged, my heart was beating like a drum when I took the box out of the bag. It had been over twenty years since I had a pair of Aigner shoes. I sat the box in front of me to admire for a few seconds, but my excitement took control. Carefully lifting the lid from the box, I took one shoe in each hand and held them to my chest. Tears began to flow down my cheeks as I held them out to look at them. With the fragrance of new leather wafting about me, I put them on my feet and lifted my legs in the air to admire them. I pulled them off again, quickly pulling them back to my chest, holding them tightly as if they were a long lost friend.
The little love fest between my new shoes and me triggered the memory of something my father told me when I was a teen. I had asked for something, I no longer recall just what. Towering over me, he looked down at me and said, “Wanda, I will give you everything you need, a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your stomach, and I will give you some of your wants, but not all of them. It’s healthy to want because only through wanting do you learn to appreciate.”
My dad was correct. Wanting my first pair of Aigner shoes made me more appreciative, as did yearning for that second pair. I have learned that getting what one wants too easily brings only fleeting joy, but wanting something for a while binds joy with appreciation, and the marriage of those two create a happiness that endures.
I wear my beautiful Aigner shoes from time to time, but only for special occasions. I take loving care of them, as I refuse to wear this pair out. They are the only pair I keep on shoetrees, and do not wear the suede beauties in inclement weather. A couple of years ago, I finally bought an Aigner black leather handbag. That classy purse is also much appreciated and is carried with pride. Strangely, the Aigner outlet closed its doors shortly after my purchase, and for that ideal timing, I am also appreciative.