My inner super hero

Shoe snafu no match for Wonder Woman

I decided to take myself shopping in an attempt to fill the last-kid-off-to-college hollowness permeating my children’s empty bedrooms.

I have found that sometimes retail therapy works to temporarily mask my loss, as does consuming whole sleeves of Fig Newtons in one sitting. However, since that kind of cookie consumption would exhaust a week’s worth of my Weight Watchers points all at once, I opted to go shopping instead.

So I drove to Sam’s Army Navy Store in Brattleboro, Vt. It’s a fall day; swaths of yellows brush across hillsides, before long a myriad earth tones will blanket the Berkshires. Hurtling north, I set my cruise control to a conservative 72 miles per hour. I love my cruise control. I adore the carefree quality it brings to my life; it’s as if someone else, perhaps a British, mustard-loving chauffeur, were driving my car for me. I can let my mind drift like the golden leaves scattered alongside the road.

At first, this technology frightened me, especially going up hills. We, the car and I, would be driving along content and constant until mounting a hill. Suddenly, as though possessed, the engine would roar and the car would take off to maintain our pre-arranged speed. I found this autonomy alarming — I felt out of the loop. However, with time, I have grown to relish this liberating surge of power.

On the dashboard of my car stands a 41∕2-inch tall figurine of Wonder Woman, my alter ego. As a former preschool teacher, many insightful little ones have crossed my path. Years ago, one such 3-year-old approached me and said, “Wonder Woman, I need help tying my shoe.” “How did you know who I really was,” I whispered. “Oh, we all know who you are Nancy; you’re Wonder Woman.” And that was that.

My figurine’s yellow breast plate is somewhat sun bleached, her red boots are scuffed and part of her whip has broken off. Yet she is still powerful, the embodiment of all women deftly juggling what life throws their way.

But back to the task at hand, my need to buy something to distract and muffle my emptiness. And so, on this slightly deranged day of despair I get off I-91 and turn right toward the center of Brattleboro. My Honda Pilot has now been released from cruise control, but still seems to be on autopilot as without much thought, I find the perfect parking spot and simply ease into its safe berth.

I grab my purse, but decide to leave my lime green, fleece jacket on the passenger seat. All this so-close-I-can-almost-taste-it shopping will undoubtedly bring on a hot flash. I grab my cell phone, car keys and three quarters for the parking meter. As I stand beside the driver’s door, my brain says, “Wow, your right shoe sure feels a whole lot looser than your left shoe. Maybe you should look down and see what that’s all about Nance. Remember how distracted you were when you left the house? Remember our conversation about how precious fossil fuel is and how we shouldn’t be wasting it on the frivolity of shopping? Remember pushing through the guilt and deciding to drive all the way up here anyway? Well, look down honey; I have a wake-up call for you.”

I do as I am told and look down. On my left foot is my black, Merrell slip-on, which I typically wear when shopping because it slides effortlessly on and off making trying on pants a breeze. On my right foot, however, is my equally comfy, tan, clown-like Croc slipper.

Apparently, my hasty journey from house to car was so consumed with guilt over using up fossil fuel that I was way too inside my head to be at all grounded in my feet. And the seductive cruise control, with its licentious thrill, clearly distracted me from my shoe choice as well. No, it was not until I was all the way up here, 40 minutes from my home, in this fine city on the border of Massachusetts and Vermont, that my brain decided it was time to connect the dots and give me the big picture; a fairly pitiful picture. Here stood a woman struggling to cope with the emptiness of now, the ending of a beloved family chapter, revealed in the self-same woman now standing on Flat Street, wearing two glaringly mismatched pieces of footwear.

As I pondered my predicament, I realized there was obviously only one thing to do. I put my quarters in the parking meter and imperceptibly assumed a variation of my talisman, not of the one in knee high boots cracking a whip, but one of a woman who had decided to take herself shopping mere days after foot surgery. Slowly and with an ever so slight limp, I hobbled toward Sam’s department store. I felt refreshed and confident knowing that onlookers would view me with compassion and awe as they inwardly mused, “My, out and about so soon after surgery? How courageous and heroic! A veritable Wonder Woman!”

Nancy Smith lives in Ashfield and has three grown kids, two fat Labs and one wonderful husband.

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