High Heels and Crutch
Michelle Garcia (+Video)
Philippine-born Michelle Garcia had polio as a baby. Buying shoes when one’s feet are different sizes is hard, but not as difficult as facing the bullies who torment. At church, she meets and marries a man. Together they move to Banff. There, she buys a pair of pointed-toe high-heeled shoes. She wears them proudly with her crutches, reminders of the acceptance she has found in her new home.
Dressing up is a big part of Philippine culture. For me, finding the right dress was never challenging, but when it came to my shoes, it was a different story. I had polio when I was eight months old, and my right foot is smaller than my left. I use crutches for walking. I remember my mom buying two pairs of different sizes of shoes when I was in kindergarten: size 2 for the left foot and size 1 for the right.
Back then, I wasn’t aware of how much I suffered from being bullied in school. I now remember clearly how it was. There was a boy in my kindergarten who took my sandals away from me on my way home from school. I struggled to run after him, but I failed. I fell on a rock and got this scar on my forehead. A more tragic memory for me was in grade one. A group of kids took my crutches and climbed them as if they were a ladder. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do but sit in the corner and cry and wait for someone to help me.
Growing up, being bullied was always on my mind. I often asked myself, what if I have my own children? Would they accept me? Would they turn out like those bully kids? Would they be embarrassed by my appearance? I told myself that when that time comes, I want them to be raised in a place where there is no discrimination against people with disabilities. Every time I went to church, I prayed that if God allowed me to have my own family, let them be raised in a good place around good people with good manners.
Luckily, at church, I found a friend who became my husband. I felt fearless despite my disability. Someone on this earth was meant to love me just the way I am. Then I got two lovely kids after marrying my husband. All my fear of having my own kids was gone. I can see how they love me and how they care for me. I am really blessed.
When my husband got an opportunity to work in Canada, I knew this was the answer to my prayers. A lot of people dream of living here where there is a good future, friendly people, and a place where everyone can fit in. When I got my husband’s first paycheque, I wanted to treat myself. I decided to buy a good pair of shoes, and I ended up with these black, pointed, high-heeled shoes. It was a bit tricky to learn to walk in them with my crutches. The only thing on my mind was to wear them to church.
In November 2012, we moved to Canada. I was extremely happy for my kids. I know they will grow up in a country that has many opportunities. When we arrived here, I felt warm acceptance from the people around me, especially when we moved to Banff. I remember one time while waiting at the bus stop. This guy with a cane looked at my crutches and said, “You know, we can change the name of our town to Crutched Capital of Alberta because so many people have broken legs from skiing.” I just smiled.
Now that I am pregnant, I can balance on one high heel with my crutch. I am now thinking of taking up winter sports.
Since 2015, MICHELLE GARCIA has been living in Canmore, Alberta. She was born in the Philippines. She is married with four kids. She completed the Occupational Training program at Bow Valley College and works in a hotel in Canmore. She’s had polio since she was eight months old and has never been able to walk independently, but has learned how to walk using crutches. She is enrolled in the Office Administration diploma program at East West College.