24 Aug

by Andrea Kelton

I was waiting for the Belmont bus the other day when I noticed platform shoes displayed in an upscale boutique window. “I guess it’s true,” I thought.  “Fashion repeats itself.”  I’d worn platforms thirty years ago.  And here they were-fashionable once more.

I adored platform shoes when they were all the rage during the 1970’s.  I’d never worn high heels.  High heels pinched my feet.  And walking in them felt like walking a tightrope. I was sure to fall and break my body. No safety net awaited me if I toppled from the heights.

But platforms were different.  I wore them easily.  The sole might be four inches tall, but my foot was level from toe to heel.  I’d buy a new pair at least once a month.  Canvas sandals with cork soles, black patent leather or suede rust colored “high heel” styled platforms, woven tops, mesh tops, open toe, braided, buckled…all meant to compliment my many looks.  A padded-shoulder “Bette Midler” style polka dot dress wasn’t complete without black and white platforms.  Nor were the mini skirts or wide bell-bottom jeans I lived in back then.

One day in 1972, the flu kept me from teaching my first grade class. The substitute instructed the children to “draw a picture of your teacher.”  A stack of 30+ manila sheets welcomed me back when I returned.  On each crayon masterpiece stood a smiling young woman with long blond hair, wearing oversized glasses and enormous Elton John platforms.  Those six year olds had captured my essence-all hair and shoes.

I could walk, run or dance in those shoes.  But I couldn’t feel the ground under my feet.  Which, a few years later, became vitally important.

As my vision slowly deteriorated, I needed to feel the ground below me.  I had to give up fashion for safety.  I thought that I was just buying flats.  I wasn’t prepared for the emotional onslaught that followed.

My appearance intricately wove the fabric of my identity.  If I wasn’t a super hip fashion devotee, who was I? 

The term “vision loss” is deceptive.  Sure, there’s the actual physical change.  But there are also those sneaky little losses and “deaths” that paralyze your attempts to adjust and adapt.  Turning a seemingly ordinary situation into emotional devastation.

Like giving up platform shoes.

 Andrea Kelton lives in Chicago.  She was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974 at the age of 25.  Andrea quit teaching in 1984 when she was designated legally blind.  She went on to become a potter, opening her own art school for children.  She currently teaches adults to read at Literacy Chicago


3 Responses to “Shoes”

  1. Mani G. Iyer August 25, 2011 at 11:00 AM #

    Amazing essay, Andrea! I know the feeling. In my case, the fetish was literary books! Keep writing.

  2. Kathryn Kelton August 27, 2011 at 4:23 PM #

    Excellent essay! I love it =) Kathryn

  3. bethfinke August 29, 2011 at 8:17 AM #

    Love the part where the kids capture your essence in their artwork, but we all know you are *much* more than just hair and shoes!
    You are a fabulous writer, Andrea. Keep up the good work!

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