Irish Green Shoes
After offering the humble green loafers as a gift to her mother, Filiz found they fit her better. She dripped paint on them while painting her first house in Toronto. The shoes have memories of other family members in Turkey. Though they have served her well over many years, they will not be the shoes she wears to welcome her family members when they visit her in her new country.
Up and down, up and down. I tried to reach further, but it was impossible. I am not that tall. I bent down and dragged the step stool behind me. When I stepped on it, I could reach the upper side of the window trims. This time: left and right, left and right. That movie, The Karate Kid, came to mind.
Painting is a totally physical job. Just your body works, and your mind starts flying from one thing to another. One minute ago, my mind was busy with the colour combination of the house, now this old movie. With this distraction, I dripped some paint. When I looked down, I noticed that my green shoes had got some white paint droplets. I thought about how old these shoes were. They had accompanied me for years and now ended up a part of this renovation.
I turned back to painting. It had been more than ten days that I was doing it, but still, I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. It looked like an endless struggle in this half-century-old and dirty house. I fell into memories. I bought these shoes at a high-end shopping mall in Istanbul. Their green and brown leather appeared to me humble, comfortable and light, just what I like. At the same time, they were sleek and a well-known brand, Mephisto.
It had been a mother-daughter day, a light lunch, coffees and window shopping. I showed them first to my mother. It would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift. “Mom, would you like to try those green loafers?” Although she hadn’t wanted to make me spend money, she could not resist my offer and tried. However, they were not her size. They were mine. So, I bought them.
My tired hands automatically continued to paint.
And then, another flashback: it was a pleasant day, and I was sitting on a bench at a park with my little niece, feeding birds. The bright spring sun forced us to look down at my shoes. “Are they new?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I got them years ago.”
“How nice!” she said. “I cannot wear my shoes that long.”
“My feet grow very fast!” she said. “When my shoes get small for me, my mom gives them away.”
In the reflection in the window glass, I saw a big smile on my face. I missed her. It has been three years since I’ve seen her. In emigrating to Canada, I lost priceless time with my loved ones.
My green loafers were perfect for a long flight. From Istanbul-to-London, a five-hour-wait and then London-to-Toronto. We landed in Toronto on a humid and hot summer day in 2000. I walked kilometres of downtown with these shoes. I wandered all around and tried to get familiar with the city where I chose to live.
Over a quick lunch, I looked at the walls I have painted: soft yellow in the living room, cloud blue in the dining area and light gray in the hallway. It was a perfect colour combination. I was proud: it was becoming more like my dream home every day.
When I stepped into this house for the first time, my green shoes were on my feet. The salesperson asked us to take off our shoes. My shoes stayed in the foyer, and I walked on the Irish green carpets and noticed that everything was green, including the walls, ceiling and awning. The previous owner, an Irish widow, was a heavy smoker. As well as smelling of smoke, the house was worn out and dirty but spacious and bright. Actually, after seeing hundreds of houses, this one was the only one we could afford. So, the renovation started.
I have spent a big chunk of my life in these shoes. I’ve had lots of fun, but also some struggle and frustration. I took the brushes and paint containers together with my green shoes to the basement. Next summer my mom, my sisters and my niece are going to visit me. It will be a great family reunion. Before they come, I will need to buy a new pair of walking shoes.
FILIZ DOGAN is from Istanbul. Given her fascination with human behaviour, it is not surprising that she spent most of her adult life working in the mental health field as a psychologist in Turkey and now as a psychotherapist in Canada. She is an environmentalist and mental health activist. Her passion is to help people heal from their traumas and empower them to develop self-awareness, acceptance, confidence, and positive change.