Shoes for Life
In my teens I babysat to buy my shoes. My favorite, leather Pappagallo flats, hot pink with a large flower in the center. I wore those shoes until the soles literally split in two. My dream of dancing never came to fruition, but even now I wear ballerina shoes and still love them. I began buying two pairs of the same style if I really l liked them so I could fall back on the second pair. I became addicted, everywhere I shopped I came home with a pair to two. Nordstrom was my favorite, they have the finest selection of shoes. I marched down the church aisle in silk, cream pumps on my wedding day, later to wear the shoes of a mother, wife and activist.
My younger sister, Laura, completed suicide at 28 years old, and it changed the direction of my life, from a decorator and antique dealer to speaking out for young people's safety for almost twenty years. I recall the detectives handing me Laura's duffel bag she carried until the end. Two pairs of shoes, canvas slip-ons and nude leather high heels were enclosed, she was a beauty and loved shoes. Immediately after Laura's death, I strapped on my activist shoes. Very few talked about suicide in the nineties until I spoke out, which led me nationally to be featured on television, radio, magazines, newspapers and I began writing. Being dyslexic was a challenge, but I truly believe my sister was guiding me every step of the way. Today I am the spokesperson for suicide prevention in Maryland, Founder and Executive Director of SPEAK (Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids) which I began in memory of Laura in 1999. Shoes adorn my office, from Shirley MacLaine's black fabric heels worn on screen to my rectangular pewter bank with "shoe fund" imprinted. My cause led me to placing hundreds of survivors' shoes from sandals to clogs in front of politicians offices, which almost landed me in jail.
I put on my jogging shoes to run walks in the state of Maryland for suicide prevention, giving a face to a growing epidemic. Many people still chose to sweep the "s" word under the carpet even though we are losing children as young as 5 years old by suicide. For some reason, jumpers have been known for removing their shoes before leaping off of bridges. I marched into a meeting wearing my black leather boots, with the Maryland Transportation Authority Secretary, and several others of importance, begging for telephones to be placed on several bridges for jumpers. This project would be an expensive proposition but the phones could save a life, giving jumpers one last lifeline. Twenty-six phones were installed on two Maryland bridges in 2002, my wish was granted. Shortly after, a young mother, who had a new baby waiting at home, was pacing the bridge to jump. Thank God she picked up one of the phones and was saved.
My activist shoes have lead me to speak before the Maryland House and Senate, and also to attend several events with the President, Surgeon General, authors, and celebrities. Later I put on my dancing shoes and boxing gloves, I went round and round with the men on Wall Street, I call them. Finally, I won the case nationally.
I always loved the story of Cinderella and the glass slipper. Never in my wildest dreams after 26 years of marriage, would I have known I too would encounter others who wanted to fill my shoes, as the shoe card informed me, only to win the prince. My husband also wore many shoes depending on which affair he was entertaining at, clown, balloonist or magician. He hobnobbed with the upper echelon, entertaining at the inaugural ball for the President of the US, to places where famous people attended, wearing his patent leathers. I was his biggest fan and his agent pushing him. Little did I know, the prince was clowning around, if you know what I mean. I then put on my running shoes to escape the heartache. As I step into my newest shoes, animal print stilettos, I invite you to take a walk on the wild side with me and experience a small taste of my soon to be novel.