Shoes for Today
Manisha Shrestha (+Video)
For Mother’s Day in Katmandu, Nepal, Manisha Shrestha fulfills her mother’s wish for a pair of decorated slippers. However, they stay in a box under her dressing table. They are to be worn in the future, a future that never comes for her mother. They become a life-altering lesson in seizing the moment to live fully in the present.
Three years ago, I was living near my parent’s house in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was close to Mother’s Day, so I asked my mother if she needed a specific gift from me. She replied in her soft voice that she wanted a pair of shoes. I still remember how she described them, ”slippers in red or black, semi-casual, but with a little bit of embroidery or stones, and low heels.”
My mom, dad, sister and twin brothers celebrated Mother’s Day together. She was happy with the red shoes, but I saw them in a box underneath her dressing table whenever I visited. I always asked her, “When will you wear the shoes?” She always smiled and told me she would wear them at my brothers’ weddings. But my twin brothers hadn’t even found girls yet!
A year later, when Mother’s Day came around again, I decided to give my mother a gift that she had to use right away. I chose a face cream and told her that it had an expiry date. I pointed at the box still under her dressing table. “I will wear those red shoes at your brothers’ wedding,” Mommy said again!
I wasn’t surprised when she said that because we had grown up that way. We always worried about our future and regretted what we hadn’t done in our past. Therefore, we missed our present days. I consider this a general practice in Nepali society. Already my mother-in-law is saving money for my son’s wedding. He is only nine years old.
The same year I gave my mother the shoes, my husband went to Canada to do his Ph.D. research on glaciers. My mother said, “You stay with us until your husband comes back.” She was worried about my future but gave little thought to our family life. I agreed because I didn’t want to quit my job at an international NGO. I feared we would have to start life all over again when we came back.
Then my mom became sick. I was with her in the hospital. She was wearing old shoes, still saving the red ones. I asked her if she would wear them soon. One of my brothers had found a girl by then, so there was hope.
Sadly, on Friday morning, September 7, 2012, my mother left this world. Her dream of wearing the red shoes at her sons’ weddings was never fulfilled.
In our culture, when people die, we give away a set of their clothes and shoes to a priest. My family members gave away the gift shoes. As the priest packed them in his bag, I was saddened, recalling mommy’s dream. I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about the shoes. She could have enjoyed them. Why do we always save for the future? I was rethinking my life. Suddenly, I was determined to change. I told my husband we would not live apart anymore.
Now I am in Canmore. I have tried wearing ski boots, skates, and snow boots. I would never have had these opportunities if I had not chosen the present over the future. I have been telling all my family members that the red shoes truly are why I came here.
I was excited when I heard about The Shoe Project. I am glad I have the opportunity to tell my shoe story to you all now. I don’t have the red shoes, but here are shoes very much like them in black. I bought them when I went to Nepal last April to attend my twin brothers’ weddings.
My mother had arranged the bride for one of my brothers. I needed to work very hard to arrange the bride for the other brother, all the way from Canmore.