Heidy Gaitan (+Video)
Carmen Maria was elegant, distinguished, sophisticated and a very smart woman. When I first worked with her, she was the mother of a beautiful girl and expecting her second son. One of her expressions was, “Never have a man whose shoes are dirty, old or have holes in them. That man will never succeed in life. Because our personality is reflected in our shoes.” Sadly, she passed away in 2005, but Carmen Maria lives on in beautiful memories in my mind.
Back in Colombia, in 1997, when I was 26 years old, I met Carmen Maria Penaranda, married to Friman. Carmen was elegant, distinguished, and sophisticated. Her strong temperament inspired respect, so nobody acted foolishly around her. She used to dress stylishly, like a businesswoman—always in heels, not too high, but not too low, dark blue or black leather and very well-finished inside, so comfortable that she said they were like gloves on her feet. Perfect for her type of job: she was a manager at a Colombian export-import business and had many meetings here and there. The mother of a beautiful girl, she was expecting her second son.
That was why I met this amazing woman. I was a preschool teacher, and Carmen hired me temporarily to babysit her daughter. She planned to hire a professional nurse once the baby arrived. The clock was ticking, and that baby was about to be born, but I was still afraid to speak to Carmen. I told my mom, and she said: “You must tell her all about your nursing studies and English skills. She will appreciate your knowledge.” Well, my mom was right… when I told Carmen about myself, she hired me as her full-time nanny.
I worked with their family for three years. I got very attached to the lovely kids, and I learned many things from Carmen. One of her expressions is still rolling in my mind: “Never have a man whose shoes are dirty, old or have holes in them. That man will never succeed in life. Because our personality is reflected in our shoes.”
Since then, whenever I meet somebody, I look at their shoes first.
When Carmen and her family moved to Vancouver in 2000, I asked to go with them. Canada had been my dream since I was fifteen. The Great Lakes and Niagara Falls piqued my curiosity and made me wish that I could visit those glorious places one day. Carmen didn’t have enough money to sponsor me, but before she left Colombia, she went to tell my mom. “Thanks for the education you gave your daughter. I promise you that I will bring her to Canada.” Then she gave my mom a big hug and her wonderful smile. I was with them, and all our tears fell. As she left, she said to me, “See you in Canada!”
A year later, I received an email from Carmen asking if I would be willing to work with a family in Vancouver who were expecting a set of twins. I responded YES! While I waited for my visa, I went shopping. I fell in love with a beautiful pair of knee-high boots. Perfect! They are very soft red leather, handmade in Colombia. They have a low heel and are decorated from the ankle to the knee with seven little buttons in the same red leather. Pointy—but not too pointy. They make me feel inspired and powerful, radiant, like the sun when it is sparkly and warm!
Carmen met me at the airport. My beautiful red boots were polished—I knew Carmen Maria would be looking right away at my footwear, as she always did. My heart beat faster and faster—then we saw each other. We hugged, our tears rolling down like cascades of water, full of happiness.
The following year Carmen got sick. She struggled with cancer for two years. Everything was impossible. Sadly, she passed away in April 2005. From the day I met Carmen Maria, she was my beautiful angel. I imagine her dressing now in an angel’s long white dress, with sparkly, soft and delicate white wings—but no shoes.
Angels don’t need to wear shoes.
In memory of Carmen Maria Penaranda, March 14/1960-April 18/2005
HEIDY GAITAN immigrated to Vancouver from Bogota, Colombia, in March 2002. Heidy was a Preschool Teacher in Colombia and has earned a certificate in Office Administration. She received her Canadian Citizenship in April 2008, the same year she moved to Fort McMurray. She arrived in Canmore in March 2015, where she enjoys the natural environment: hiking, cycling, swimming and taking photographs. This is her second time participating in The Shoe Project.