Shoes are My Rock and Anchor

Olga Lerner


My husband wanted to leave my beige walking shoes behind, but they were my rock and anchor. They helped my leg recover after a serious accident, and I hope they can still help as our family adjusts to life in Canada.


Following a Russian superstition, we sat down in silence on our suitcases before leaving for the airport. Two adults. Two kids. Four suitcases. It was the time for packing our thoughts. 

A rooster’s morning cry returned us to reality. 

“Why did the landlord have to turn the heat off?” my husband muttered. 

I had been crying for weeks. I was running from something but wasn’t sure from what. In my workplace and our moshav, I had been seen as Olga—a person, a mother and a professional. However, the omnipresent shadow of guilt made me lie: “It’s temporary. We’ll be back in a year.”

“What’s in your luggage?” my husband asked. 

I shivered. “Pieces of my life in Israel, memories. The shoes.”

“They are ten years old! We’ll buy a new pair!”  

He wanted to “try” Canada and to leave those shoes. Those beige, rather elegant, soft, supportive shoes. My love at first sight. 

My memory flashed, our trip to the Jordan River. I would’ve lapped the dirty holy water.  My throat was so parched. My husband went to buy a bottle of water from a nearby stand. 

The roar of an engine squeezed my ears. The smell of burning tires was overpowering. After a while, it was only pain. 

A car had hit me and dragged me under its wheels. 

My husband peered at me from a distance with wide, empty eyes. The driver of the car held me and cried ‘sorry’ over and over. Tourists surrounded me and took pictures.

In the hospital, I heard, as though through a fog, someone screaming: She’ll lose her leg! 

I didn’t lose my leg. 

A month later, in the waiting room of my physiotherapist’s office, I saw a photograph of the surgeon who operated on my leg. Young, clean-shaven face on the TV screen. He was killed in the battle of the Lebanon War just hours before.

I had to know then. Nauseated with fear, I asked my physiotherapist, “Will I walk?”

“Depends,” he said.

This ‘depends’ was like a needle that poked me to go to physiotherapy, aqua-therapy and gym. ‘I’ll walk again. I have to fight,’ I told myself every morning. 

It was scary at first to put weight on my foot. But then one day, I took my first steps—I limped, but I walked. I desperately needed shoes to help my leg heal.

One day, my husband stopped in front of a shoe store. It was the kind of place where they don’t tell you the price until you try on a couple of pairs. “I can’t,” I said. “We’ve spent too much on my recovery already.” But my husband insisted, and we walked in. 

He must have stopped breathing, trying to decode my opinion about the pair I was trying on.

“They are perfect,” I said. 

I’m browsing career sites for job opportunities, scrolling through university programs, salaries and forecasts for the most in-demand occupations in Canada. My injured foot is numb, as I’ve sat for too long. 


It’s 2 o’clock.  “Go back to sleep, honey.” On my way to his bed, I stumble over something on the floor. I almost fall. 

“Imma, I am scared. I miss home.” 

“Me too, sweetheart.” 

I tiptoe back to my computer, trying not to kick away the quiet. I turn on the light. It’s unbelievable how many pairs of shoes we have in the hallway. Rain boots, sandals, sneakers and the pair in the middle of them–my shoes. My anchor and my hope. I sit down on the floor and touch their warm beige leather. They are still strong. I’ll wear them more.

OLGA LERNER is a professional psychologist and a mother of two boys. She was born in the Urals, Russia, on the border between Europe and Asia, lived in Israel, and now resides in Halifax.

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