Remembering 9/11

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Does a tomato graced by a volunteer petunia taste better?

If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m into Food Porn. Can’t get enough of it. My heart races: the pictures, the  techniques, and the text all suck me into the world of food. I don’t have to look for food porn: favored websites come to my in-box on a daily basis where they crook their index fingers and tempt me to come closer.

My all-time favorite website is NYT Cooking. There’s the food, of course, but the attraction for me is Sam Sifton who introduces himself and chats about the featured foods. This morning, Sam (forgive me, but his accessibility invites me to use his first name) began today’s post with a nod to 9/11.

It is a somber day in NYC, in Washington, D.C.,  and Shanksville, Penn., all across the nation, everywhere touched by the attacks of 18 years ago. I can’t help but recall, each time, how blue the sky was that day and how tightly I held my week-old child in horror at what I’d done, bringing life into this world gone mad.

I cooked later that day and served what I’d made to my family. That act sustained me and sustains me still – this vain hope that if only we make food for one another and share it with open hearts we can push forward together in understanding and together maybe make the world a better place. I don’t know if that works. I believe it does. So I’ll continue to do it, seeking grace in the meals, in the work of making them.”

community-dinner-overhead-large-jpg-9525-220x300I don’t know that food – serving as salve – works, but ‘hope springs eternal.’ This year’s Valley Strong Community Dinner is this coming Thursday, September 19. Two, parallel lines of banquet tables run down Main Street, Westcliffe. Starting at Second Street, the tables terminate at The Bluff overlooking The Valley.

Every table has a host who provides decorations and place settings. Guests pot-luck the food. Some tables are exclusively friends-of-friends. Other tables are open to meeting new friends. This year we’re eating with Trails for All, hosted by Paul and Nicole Parsons. I know very few of these people, but I look forward to meeting them.

The anniversary of 9/11 takes me back. I was flying home from London when the pilot shared the bad news. (Not to repeat myself, you can easily find that story. If you look to the right of this text, you will see a search box. Type in 9/11, and the September 10, 2016 blog will pop up.)

Looking to refresh my memory of the Shanksville, PA story, I went on-line where I was reminded that a crew of seven, aided by exceptionally brave passengers, thwarted four, al-Qaeda hijackers who planned to target the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Rather than fly the plane to the hijackers destination, the crew and passengers sacrificed their lives by crashing into a field.

sept 11 Shanksville PANot to diminish the number of deaths and unheralded acts of bravery at The World Trade Center and at the Pentagon, but the self-sacrifice of those on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, hits very close to home. I was on a plane that day. What would I have done had four terrorists been on my flight?

Would I have been brave enough to attack or distract one of the hijackers? I think about this often. Certainly I’ve looked for terrorists on every flight I’ve taken the last 17 years. I steel myself with a mantra of sorts. “I will be brave… I will be brave… I will be brave.” How brave remains to be seen.

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Looking at the Flight 93 Memorial, I see pictures of a 93-ft. ‘Tower of Voices.’ 40 chimes hang from the tower. Driven only by the weather and the wind, the chimes ring out in memory of the 40 deceased passengers and crew.

Reading this, my heart lightens. And then scrolling through possible sources relating to 9/11 and Shanksville, I came across the conspiracy theories. Page after page of crockpot theories – many fueled by The Rebekah Roth Conspiracy. (Read for yourself. I’m not going into it today.” I only had to read the first post, to feel my heart sink. That first post read: “The Federal Government sure knows how to waste money… maybe some ‘Guilt’ for downing the plane themselves? Gotta Wonder!”

Other articles and blogs were worse. If I were to invite these folks to dinner what would serve? Something sweet and sour? Sauerbraten?  Key Lime Pie? Arsenic? I think I’d choke singing, “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.” Color me dark.

There’s a part of me that wants to understand the “others.” Who are they, and why are they the way they are? And there is another part of me that wants to turn my back and garden. Enough! I going to garden NOW!

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Jump-starting Thanksgiving

 

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Summer’s Last Kiss

Not to sound like a ranting feminist, but Thanksgiving (overseen by women in the kitchen) has always brought me down.

It’s hard to be thankful when buying, preparing, and serving the Thanksgiving groaning board is your responsibility. It is hard to be gracious when you are one of the women in the kitchen while everyone else is off hiking, relaxing or playing bocce ball. (Go ahead! Color me small. I don’t care!)

If you catch me smiling, last week we broke the bonds that tied us to tradition. To heck with turkey and all the trimmings. Family reunions are supposed to be about family, not cooking. And so this year’s annual family reunion in Sedona was scheduled three weeks prior to Thanksgiving.

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And what a brilliant idea that was! It was a great week with kids, grandkids, and six dogs. The food was family food with everyone serving himself. We ate a lot of chili, and no one complained. I was particularly happy.

DSCN9499No trip to Sedona is complete without a short drive to the 1890s copper mining town of Jerome: the arts, the crafts, and the old buildings clinging to a mountainside riddled with 88 miles of tunnels is well worth the trip. On a clear day, you can see forever.

 

Looking down is one choice; looking up is another.

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As for the arts and crafts, name your price. There is something for everyone. I couldn’t afford my favorite something, but if any reader would like to surprise me with a little something, I’ll paste in a photo so you will know what I want. I’ll hang it in a west facing window so the Sangres will shine through in the background.

 

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A second highlight on our pre-Thanksgiving was to stop at Chaco Canyon, a prehistoric ruin and a designated National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico.

DSCN9569Scanning Chaco Wash, you see an arid, over-grazed inhospitable landscape. Not that the land was ever lush, but looking at the dirt-scape, try to get your head around ruins that were once three and four stories high and home to a thousand people in the years between 850 and 1250 A.D. In addition to being an ancient trading center, the complex was a ceremonial center and built with astronomical alignments in mind.

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This is a poor photo with the remains of a ceremonial kiva in for foreground. Unfortunately, there is no way to capture the scale of the complex.

DSCN9542I fell in love with the audacity of the peoples who lived there. Who were they who could embrace the landscape, build their community, worship in place, irrigate the land, grow their crops, trade with other cultures,  and still have time for art?

A visit to Chaco is humbling. Who are we who shop for our groceries, drive to the dentist, and rely on a contractor to build our homes?

I feel small.

If you live in Custer County, you can find the PBS video narrated by Robert Redford at our West Central Library. You are wanting to check out The Mystery of Chaco Canyon: unveils the astronomical brilliance of an ancient culture in the American Southwest. 

 

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Queen for a Day

At 8:00 a.m. on October 9th, our thermometer registered eight degrees Fahrenheit. It’s too early! My flannel-lined jeans are still packed away with the long underwear. The leaves have faded , but they are not ablaze in orange, bronze and gold; rather, they’re motley brown. The leaves hang on as if for dear life. Our leaves are never going to shout their last hurrah but are directly on their way to intensive care and a quick demise.

Was it only last week that I was delighted to see a newly hatched  Monarch butterfly?

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After years of talking about planting milkweed seed but not following through, I am finally trying to do my bit in an attempt to save the monarchs at-risk and in decline from land development and roadside weed spray.

Several days after had I photographed the monarchs on my flowers (and vowed to plant some milkweed this year) I found an unopened milkweed pod which I bought home and set on the kitchen table. 24 hours later – ba-boom! The pod had opened and the seeds were beckoning. Coincidence? A miracle? I’m not to say, but such improbabilities do make one wonder.

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Hellbent to get the seeds in the ground before I got distracted, I did a bit of research. Oops! I’m ‘a day late and a dollar short.’ You can plant in the fall or the spring, but prior to planting, you should roll the seeds in a damp paper towel, bag the towel, record the date, and refrigerate the seeds for 10 – 12 weeks. Before planting, the recommendation is to soak the hard shells in warm water for 24 hours.

Obviously, the window on planting this fall has slammed shut: no one in Westcliffe plants in January. I have, however, looked ahead to 2020, and if I start preparing my seeds in January, I can plant in April. Perfect. When my bones are cold, what better way to raise my spirits  and think ahead to spring?

2019 10 milkweed catepillarAn egg will take four to six days to hatch; the caterpillar (larva) stage lasts two to three weeks; the chrysalis (pupal) stage is five to 15 days in length; and the adult monarch lives between two and five weeks. Butterflies that winter-over south of the border may live several months.

The monarch is amazing. Butterflies east of the Rockies, migrate to Oyamel fir trees in Mexico; those west of the Rockies, winter in the eucalyptus of California. Depending on where they summer, some monarchs migrate up to 2,500 miles each way!

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Note the butterfly’s wings visible inside the chrysalis. Photo by Rosie Watts (master birder, gardener, and photographer) currently of Tucson, formerly of Penrose CO.

Even more confounding is that each monarch’s return from Mexico to the States or Canada encompasses three generations.  Even so, the monarch returns TO THE SAME TREE that played host to a parent four generations removed!!

Living through these dark days of worldwide political upheaval, it is easy to spiral down. I am certainly guilty of sinking spells. The monarch is only Queen for a few days, but she achieves so much is such a short time. Not that I’m looking forward to a death sentence, but I often wonder how I would spend my days if I knew how limited my time.

If the lifespan of the monarch did not cheer you up, read “Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Lameris.

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk / down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs / to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” / when someone sneezes a leftover  / from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. / And sometimes, when you spill lemons / from your grocery bag, someone else will help you / pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. / We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, / and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile / at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress / to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, / and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. / We have so little of each other, now. So far / from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. / What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these / fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, / have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.”

I’m on my way to the grocery… maybe I’ll drop an orange or two.

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Jackson Alexander Jimenez 16-mo. “Have courage and be kind.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Forever Young (at heart)

Least you think I’m deluded at 76 because I still think that I’m in my late 50s, let me hasten to tell you that I refuse to look in the mirror. There’s no point in underscoring the wrinkles that I catch reflected back to me in store windows.

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When Jackson says “older chicks,” I don’t think he’s thinking of me.

I don’t obsess about the canyon craters inherited from my mother and my mother’s mother. Wrinkles run in that side of the family. Also, I try to curb my jealously of my sister Christine who, favoring my father’s Welsh line, has not one faintly etched line across her ever-youthful face.

Instead of focusing on my falling face, I’ve been rejoicing in my good health.  Despite the ads for walk-in tubs and Silver Senior dating sites that pop up on my In-Box, I’ve been convinced that I am holding age at-bay…

DSCN9273until this past week of babysitting my grandson Jackson who at 16 month is into everything. I can’t keep up. Jackson is either drinking water out of the dog’s bowl, eating a past-prime peach that he fished out of the garbage, or attempting to pull the fish tank off its stand.

What a shock to learn that I’ve been deluded! I AM 76!

Taking Jackson for a walk in his stroller today, a neighbor called out, “Hi, Jackson. Are you taking a walk with your Granny today?” GRANNY! She was talking about me!!

Adding insult to injury, Jackson’s mother Laura and I stopped at Goodwill this afternoon to drop off some donations. Driving up the drop-off, Laura saw a donated tricycle and urged me to jump out and grab the bike that had been dropped by the car in front of us.

Of course, I declined. When Laura questioned my reticence, I replied that picking up goods at the drop-off was stealing. And she said, “‘At your age you can fake it. Just act confused and ask the attendant why there is no price on the tricycle.”

Of course, she was just pulling my chain. I think

Really! Yes, maybe once a month a week I get confused, but not on a weekly daily basis.


As a sort of postscript, I’m remembering a poem that I wrote recently. Enjoy.

“Reading Between the Lines”

The smell of manure, funnel cakes and deep-fried Snickers

mingle and hang hefty in the stifling air.

My hand-held, battery-powered fan

does little to cool me.

 

I’m at the Colorado State Fair,

but had you asked,

I would have sworn that

I was dying by degrees in Death Valley.

 

I feel faint… flushed.

My adult children suggest that I get out of the sun.

Passing a palm reader’s booth, they urge me,

“Sit down. Have your palm read.” And so I sit.

 

Wanda, the Reader, is dressed for the part.

She wears a pleated, black turban on which

front and center, she has pinned a large amber stone.

A third eye, perhaps?

 

She’s old… wrinkled. Twenty dollars’ worth of eye makeup

does not make her any younger.

Rings and bracelets weigh her wrists down.

Without a word of greeting, Wanda waves me to a chair.

 

She takes my right hand and turns it palm up.

She squints. For the first time,

I too look intently at my palm, and

I’m surprised that it is so faintly lined.

 

Perhaps the palmist will think that I have money and

I’m a lady of leisure.

I’m guessing that she will interpret my lines accordingly.

I wait for her to prove my conjecture correct.

 

Glancing at the wall chart, I note the hand’s major lines.

My heart line is well-defined, but my head and lifeline are faint.

My fate line is nearly indistinct.

A good number of lines are entirely missing.

 

I wait.

Wanda’s pursed lips and furrowed brow have me holding my breath.

Her performance is good… dramatic… theatric.

Finally, Wanda sighs.

 

Turning my palm over, she tenderly pats the top of my hand.

Lifting her eyes, Wanda studies me.

A few moments later, she smiles at my lined face.

Now, she has something to work with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There But for the Grace of God

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Life is fragile

It is nearly Friday and this coming weekend is my husband’s 30th Courage Classic, a two-day bike ride designed to raise funds for Children’s Hospital – the last resort for seriously sick children who live in a seven state catchment.

Saturday’s ride goes from Copper Mountain, to Leadville, to Minturn, to Vail, and back to Copper. Sunday it’s Copper to Frisco, to Keystone, to Ute Pass, to Frisco, and back to Copper. For those cyclists who train, the miles and the ascents get their attention.

But not every rider is an athlete.

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A good number of riders ride a tandem with young patients along for the ride. The dad in the orange shorts rode with two children in tow. Some kids pedal; other kids wave. Handicapped, therapy dogs neither pedal nor wave, but their presence warms the hearts of every participant.

2017 07 therapy dogSome riders are the brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, or the moms and dads of children whose lives have been saved at Children’s. These friends and relatives are not athletes. And yet, they are out there –  doing their very best to make it up another mountain pass so as not to punk out on those who have donated in their name.

As a road marshal, I see it all: the tears, the exhaustion, and the pain. And yet, despite the despair that has driven these friends and relatives to volunteer, they are buoyed by the common goal and the 2,000 riders who have stepped up to raise money for the hospital and their loved ones.

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Olivia – at seven months, she had a liver transplant

The Children’s Hospital Foundation just emailed the volunteers. As of today, Thursday the 18th, they are short of pledges. If they (we) could raise just 1.3 million more, the Foundation could celebrate a 30-year total donation of $50 million.

I’m the first to acknowledge that everyone wants my money and everybody’s need is pressing. And you are in the same boat. How do you decide which organization to support?

The photo below says it all. For those teens in treatment at Children’s, the hospital holds its own prom. I look at this young couple… their lives are in front of them. Hopefully but not necessarily. Their lives are in the hands of the hospital. Their fragility and that wisp of wind that may determine their lifespan tugs at the heart.

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In my case, I support Children’s Hospital because I know that there but for the grace of God go I. None of our children had need of Children’s. But, if they had, how wonderful to know that the hospital and their doctors were there for us.

If your finances allow, Children’s Hospital would appreciate your donation.

You can do so online:

http://www.childrenscoloradofoundation.org/courage-classic/donate/

Donating in the name of Mark Dembosky would make his day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Twisted History

I’m looking at the June 28th cover of THE WEEK. It’s a photo of the Grand Canal in Venice. Gondolas, overloaded with tourists, ride low… water up the gunnels and gondoliers look askance as they in line up to wait their turn passing beneath the Rialto Bridge which is three -deep with gawking spectators leaning over the abutment above.

The photo previews the article “Far too popular: Why summer destinations are against ‘overtourism.'” Quoting Kara Fox in CNN.com, “From April to October, some 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark [in Venice] daily, joining 465,000 day-trippers.”

If you have been to Venice during the off-season and before the tourist glut, you can only cry. The city is not the same.

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DSCN8716Such was my recent trip to Santa Fe which I had not visited in maybe 45 years. My memory of Santa Fe was that it was larger than Taos. Ha! Today, Santa Fe is a densely crowded small city.

Santa Fe is not Los Angeles,  but it is so much busier than I remember. My nostalgia for Old Santa Fe is packed in the same box with my memories of playing hopscotch, ice skating on farm ponds, and roller skating with the key around my neck. And given that it is summer… I remember making daisy chains. “He loves me; he loves me not.”

I wonder if I ever cheated? Did I count the petals (and perhaps remove one) to assure myself that the very last petal would forecast love?

DSCN8724The density of Santa Fe came as a shock, but prior to my visit, I’d been reading Forrest Carter’s book, WATCH FOR ME ON THE MOUNTAIN – a story based on the Apache’s defense of their homeland under the leadership of Geronimo.

The preface includes an excerpt from Longfellow’s 1845 poem, “The Arsenal at Springfield.” Were half the power, that fills the world with terror, / Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts, / Given to redeem the human mind from error, / There were no need of arsenals or forts: 

How true! I find it sad that so much time has passed and we ‘higher life forms’ have made so little progress. Man’s baser instincts still call for conflict. We have learned nothing. Some hope that we can show the Chinese and Russians a thing or two and rocket to Mars. Why go so far when we have so many unsolved issues here on planet Earth?

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One of the Saint Francis Auditorium murals painted by Carlos Vierra and Kenneth Chapman on continuous display since 1917. Presently in the NM State Capitol. Note the Natives fleeing the Westward Expansion. As for the American goddess, she is stringing telegraph wire. And the book in the crook of her arm? A Bible… the Declaration of Independence?

Some of the quotes in WATCH FOR ME are chilling. Chief Josecito of the Mescalero Apaches tried to keep peace with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but he and his people were driven from the self-sustaining White Mountains onto an arid reservation at Bosque Redondo where they were dependent on and starving from insufficient government rations.

When Josecito protested, he was murdered. Quoting Washington’s Indian Bureau agent, E. A. Graves: “This race are destined to a speedy and final extinction, seems to admit of no doubt… all that can be expected from an enlightened and Christian government, such as ours, is to graduate and smooth the passway of their final exit from the state of human existence.”

DSCN8675Having taught on the Navajo reservation and the White River Apache Reservation (both in Arizona), I really enjoyed reading WATCH FOR ME.

Until…

a good friend mentioned that Forrest Carter was a known racist and had lied about his Native American (Cherokee)  heritage. His first highly acclaimed book, THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE, was not a memoir as he promoted, but fiction.

I must say that after appreciating Carter’s writing skills, I was shocked. A little research led me to learning that Asa Carter was a Ku Klux Klan leader in the 50s and a speech writer for George Wallace who was Alabama’s governor 63-67. Wallace was also a candidate for president in ’64, ’68, and ’76. As a speech writer, Carter’s oft quoted refrain was “Segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever.”

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The New Mexico capitol skylight reflected on the rotunda floor

How, I wondered, could I reconcile my appreciation of Carter’s writing style with the man himself? Who was Asa (Forrest) Carter? I don’t have the answer to that question. Critics who know his work better than I, are as confused as I am.

Seeing the Native American women on the Plaza…on their knees selling jewelry displayed on handwoven textiles was also troubling. How many tourists know our misguided, brutal Native American history?

Yes, the women are making a living – selling their handcrafts, but the women are also a commercialized brand. As a group or tribe, they are marketing their culture, but as individuals, they are so much more.  I found myself wanting to scream, “Get up off your knees!”

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Get up off your knees and tell your twisted tales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recognizing My Shoe Fetish

FETISH: an object that is superstitiously believed to have magical powers.

Looking ahead to our four days at a national poetry convention in Santa Fe, Lucia Wainwright suggested that we take some supplies requested by Catholic Charities.

 

The target charity is asylum seekers who have been temporarily released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while they await their hearing. Meanwhile, Catholic Carities in Santa Fe, house, feed, and clothe 400+ immigrants  for up to three days as they arrange transport to their sponsors or relatives.

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As you know from watching the news, the immigrants arrive fatigued, foot-sore, and in need of life’s basics. Should you want to see the list of needed supplies, go to http://www.ccasfnm.org/companions.html.

Given that the immigrants are shortly on their way to somewhere else, they are travelling light. If they can’t wear it or ingest it, they don’t need it. At the top of my list is baby formula, meds (for pain, constipation, and diarrhea) and baby books in Spanish. Hoodies in all sizes and airplane blankets that you mistakenly took with you when debarking are also welcome gifts.

Having walked many Camino de Santiago miles myself, I know about foot-sore. But I was wearing good hiking boots and I carried only a day-pack. I was not fleeing violence. Nor was I hungry or thirsty. Unlike the immigrants from Central America, I carried neither a baby nor a toddler. No one clung to me.

Looking at the list of needs, my attention immediately focused on the call for children’s shoes. With that in mind, I drove to Canon City and bought 20 pair at Goodwill and New Horizons. Next week I’ll hit up the charity shops in Pueblo.

Buster Brown logoMy mother had ‘a thing’ about having perfect feet. To that end, I grew up deprived and destined to wear sturdy, utilitarian Buster Brown shoes. Looking for a photo of the shoes that I wore through middle school, I found what I was looking for: Vintage Buster Browns! (If my shoes are now vintage, am I Vintage too?!!)

Buster Brown shoesI dreamed of strappy, patent leather, church-going-shoes… anything other than what I was wearing. If I only had trendy shoes, I would be more popular. If only I had cuter shoes, no one would notice my homemade dresses. If only I had groovier shoes, maybe my math score would improve. Maybe.

Spreading out my just purchased asylum shoes on the kitchen table, I grinned with satisfaction. I had found some wonderful shoes – shoes that I had only dreamed about.

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All the shoes are cool. There’s not one Buster Brown in the bunch. I would have killed for these shoes.

If I’d had these shoes, I would have been more popular, AND I would have been better at Math. The blue shoes in the front, the ones with the hearts and stars? They would have given me magical powers.

I smile to think of the little girl who will wear them.

 

 

 

 

 

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