Go to Meeting Shoes

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 5:15pm

Once upon a time I had the notion if I wore shoes, shoes with heels, not tall spiky heels, but heels high enough for me to be able to pretend I wasn’t quite as short as I am, at least once a week, I would never be one of those people who said “I used to wear things like that. . .”

Then I broke my little toe one summer, at least that is what I always say — it did sort of hang and it hurt very much — on a big rock on the beach behind my house. “Behind my house” is one of those definitions that is accurate but misleading as it is a classic case of “you can’t get there from here.” Had I wings it wouldn’t be far but had I wings I wouldn’t have been running into the same rock I had passed morning after summer morning, back when I walked as far north as it was sandy, be it Clay Head or all the way to the Green Gully.

One thing led to another, and I finally gave up. My refusal to ever be a person who at the end of a day couldn’t wait to take off their shoes won out over other protests. Still, that it was a Rubicon I did not acknowledge until I was long past crossing it.

I even remember the first time I wore heels in public, a Sunday morning when the girls choir sang at Harbor Church. We walked in holding lighted candles singing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the first piece in the hymnals that were old even then. It was a good, easy choice but everything else was unnerving, we had no candle holders, just tall white sticks of wax topped with real flames, which, in and of itself, would have been adequate cause for anxiety, but the aisle was newly carpeted.

It was the pride of the ladies group, who had raised money selling cookbooks, enough, so much that that reupholstered the furniture in the parlor, where we barely dared sit, and painted walls and had installed carpeting with substantial padding beneath it. Such was not the stuff of our daily lives. I think all these years later I should have welcomed the purchase it afforded over a hardwood floor, but it was new, my shoes were new, and we were holding those candles. We processed — a word we did not use — two by two and being among the youngest and shortest I was half of the lead, probably better than being in the middle but we were in junior high and felt very conspicuous.

Singing was the least of our worries, we knew the hymn, we knew the tune, there were no assigned parts, and there were enough of us that we carried each other along. There was nothing fancy about our “robes;” they were plain white cotton, stitched by our mothers for the most part, with a velvet ribbon around the collar that had to be removed and sewn back by hand with each washing.

We sang on Easter, somewhere I have a photo, but that heel debut was in winter, I am sure, be it Christmas time or just some cold, dark day that needed brightening.

Over a year ago, before we went into Covid shutdown, I bought new Go to Meeting Shoes. The First Baptist Church in America in Providence refers to its building as the meeting house but I wondered if the expression had become outdated outside areas where history and heritage are a celebrated foundation. I found go-to-meeting, listed as an adjective “suitable for churchgoing or other special occasions — used especially for clothes,” although that definition was far down the search list, after a multitude of virtual meeting platform options.

I ordered my Go to Meeting Shoes on line, thinking I was getting a pair identical to ones I already owned, that were in fine, serviceable, condition but not spring-time brightly new anymore. That action recalled a cousin of my grandfather’s who wore black high top sneakers, keeping the newer pair for church and meetings until the older, everyday version of the same footwear needed replacing and the new became the old.

It’s quite a fine plan. Unfortunately, plans and execution do not always align; I realized upon opening the box I had ordered the wrong color, or more accurately, the wrong shade of pink. Really, who expects there to be two choices of pink suede sneakers!? But I had them and with online shopping, especially for shoes, a pair that fit in hand is better than dealing with return and replacement and uncertainty.

As Easter approached I thought it finally time to move those shoes to my feet. I realized I had taken the paper from their insides and must have tried them on, briefly, but hadn’t even bothered to adjust the laces. They fit, and even caught the Sunday morning sun falling through an east-facing window.

It has been a long year away, it was time, with caution, optimism and most of all hope, cautious, optimistic hope, to go back to Sunday meeting.