At Autumn’s two year check up, Dr. Green said:
“This is the age when kids develop an obsession. Things like tractors or witches or dogs.”
I was eager to see what Autumn would fall in love with, and never would’ve guessed she’d end up skipping through our family room on the yellow brick road donning a Dorothy dress and ruby red slippers.
It was the first night of Hanukkah when Auntie Rada presented her with those slippers, purchased off her Amazon wish list. When Autumn first saw them, she hid her eyes and said nothing.
“She doesn’t like them,” my sister said.
But it was the exact opposite. Who knew a 2-year old had the capacity to become awestruck and speechless? She wore them 24-7, and soon I had an unexpected realization – they were actually magic. Of course, they didn’t physically bring people home, but they did transport them back to their own childhoods. Weary travelers at the airport and busy shoppers at the grocery store all found reason to smile and reminisce. And while those slippers made life more interesting, it wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops. At night when we’d lie in bed, I’d tickle her and she’d thrash.
“Be careful,” I’d say. “When you kick, it hurts.”
It didn’t. But it was annoying. And also, dirty. Shoes that had traipsed the floors of the dentist office and the library – in my bed? Yuck.
Then when we went on vacation, I worried. They weren’t warm or waterproof – not at all practical for a trip to the Northwest during the rainy season. I admitted to my friend we were visiting:
“I really love-hate them.”
Upon entering our AirBnb, there was a sign requesting footwear be removed. The bargaining and guilt, anguish and drama this created resulted in Nonna back home splurging for a second pair – one for public use, the other for private. And then it became a thing, distinguishing between the two.
“Did you check the inside for the ‘O’?” my mom asked Dad the day he took her to music class. He, in fact, had not, thereby committing the honest, but criminal, act of sending her outside with the wrong pair. The drama that ensued.
And on it went – the ruby red slippers, ever-present, and always, always the center of attention.
Until the other day. I came home, and there were my munchkin’s bare feet – all ten toes – no slippers nearby. She was acting happy and normal, as I stood there waiting for her to remember what she forgot – and also wondering – when did this happen? How? Why? I wanted to corner the nanny, rattle off questions, find her guilty of enabling this era in my daughter’s childhood to end – all too soon and rather abruptly. And while I had been hard on those red shoes, the thought of losing them was too much. I’m sorry, red slippers. I’m sorry I didn’t take more joy in your presence. I’m sorry I bought an imposter pair. And most of all, I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate enough at the time the energy and excitement you brought to everyone who encountered you.
For several days, I clung to the idea they’d make a comeback, hoping it was not the beginning of the end.
But it was.
And looking back now, I realize the small annoyance they caused my brain when present doesn’t compare to the heavy heart I feel in their absence. I miss her insistence on wearing them, her devotion to something so simple, her passion for those little Oz shoes.
“I used to think I’d long for previous stages of your childhood,” my mom said, “but I never did. I just enjoyed all the next steps.”
But I’m different. I’m watching her continue to thrive, and also missing that glittery, scruffy pair, while simultaneously seeking the bright side. For one, she can wear footie pajamas again, and also, when she’s older, look back at the dozens of photos clicked of her during those too short weeks and reminisce with the next generation of tiny Dorothys.