As a wee lad, I didn’t receive many new clothes. Not only did my two older brothers pre-wear most of my clothes, but we lived across the street from an older cousin. This resulted in a steady stream of hand-me-downs.
Although I do recall shopping for the occasional new pair of pants as a kid, this usually only happened right at the beginning of the school year. For some reason, we had to look presentable on the first day of school. After that, Mom was content if we boys managed to put on something clean each day.
Despite wearing plain white tees and second-hand drawers for most of my childhood, shoes were another matter. Kids punish shoes, especially if they only own one or two pairs. Consequently, the only hand-me-down footwear that came my way were a few pairs of rubber galoshes.
I still recall the joy of shopping with my mother at the shoe department in Sears. The store clerk would guide me to the amazing machine that hummed and glowed when I placed my foot on it and provided my exact shoe size. No doubt it was a radioactive liability, and eventually the store abandoned it for more conventional foot measuring tools.
Armed with the perfect fit, the clerk presented us with shoes that were one or two sizes too big so that I could grow into them – more likely that I would grow through them, as my feet grew disproportionately faster than my body. I would clomp up and down the aisle, then stand dutifully still as my mother felt the ends of the shoes and asked where my toes were. It always seemed like an odd question, as my toes never left my feet.
By the time my own kids needed shoes, department stores no longer held sway over me. Since it is nearly impossible for me to find shoes in Beijing that fit, I usually order them online from the US on Amazon. To save on shipping, I pick them up on trips stateside.
When Reina needed winter boots, online shopping gave me the false sense of security that I could successfully buy shoes online for our twin boys too. Knowing that my wife would be going on a business trip in the spring, I instructed her to leave the shoe shopping to me; the perfect shoes would be waiting at her hotel when she checked in.
I scoured the Internet and finally settled on two pairs of Keens. I measured the boy’s current shoes and their feet, and consulted the sizing chart. There were categories for toddlers, big kids, and youth with measurements in inches and centimeters, and sizes for the US, the UK, Europe, Mars, and Timbuktu. I checked, double-checked, and checked again, finally clicking the “buy” button, content with my selection.
Days passed, and the shoes did not arrive. Tracking the package, I saw that they appeared to be stuck in the Midwest. On Savvy’s last day in the hotel, the box finally arrived and she eagerly opened it. I envisioned the look of surprise on her face and waited for her praise.
She sounded shocked. “Who did you buy these for?” she asked. Then she laughed and told me that the shoes would look perfect on the boys – in another two years or so. Maybe their feet will grow as fast as mine.
Illustration by Sunzheng
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.