I was in fifth grade when I saw those red tennis shoes sitting among all the white ones. The bright, cheerful color immediately made my little heart happy. It was the 80s, so they were the coveted LA GEAR brand, but instead of the typical white, these were a glorious bright scarlet. My sweet mom has always encouraged my creativity, and she agreed that these were the shoes I should choose. I can still remember how happy I felt carrying the bag out of the store just knowing those red shoes were hidden in the box. Heading out the door for school the next day, I felt joyful just knowing that happy color was on my feet.
I got through most of the morning without anyone saying much about the shoes. This didn't matter- I didn't need anyone to notice them- just looking down at them on my feet made me happy. But then, where everyone could hear, a teacher said, "You look like you're wearing lobsters on your feet." My little 11-year-old heart broke. I felt embarrassed I had made such a bold choice and just wanted to hide my feet. I can distinctly remember tucking my feet as far under my chair as possible for the rest of the day and wishing I had chosen the white shoes, that I hadn't decided to be different. I wish I could tell you that I proudly wore those shoes anyway, but I can't. I think they were only worn once after that as part of a talent show costume. I don't remember which teacher said it, and I am actually happy I don't. I doubt she meant to be unkind. She probably just spoke the words that she had thought in her head without considering the damage they could do to a little girl who was just beginning to figure who she was and what she liked.
It's funny the specific childhood moments that we remember with such clarity. For the longest time, the recollection of this event just reminded me of feeling like a small, silly, little girl. Now, while the memory itself doesn't feel joyful, the consequences of it do. I use it as a reminder for myself to think before I let my words out into the world, to use those words to build, encourage, and let others know they are seen and appreciated, and finally to chose the red shoes and wear those things until the soles fall off! Today, I hope you choose the red shoes too!
In the spirit of the red shoes, here are some bright colorful recipes for you. These Asian Chicken Burgers are delicious and the slaw makes me happy the same way those red LA GEAR tennis shoes did so many years ago. Its colors are so bold and joyful! I've also included Roasted Sweet Potatoes to pair with the burgers; these make a great alternative to fries.