My father left me a pair of magic shoes when he died. I had no idea they were magic. I had no idea that I would end up wearing them almost every day. It’s not like I thought about extracting them from his widow (not my mom) along with the cartoon collection, which I got, and the art collection, and money, which I didn’t.
But in the box of miscellaneous things that arrived with cartoon books were a pair of leather moccasins. I recognized them immediately as part of Dad’s rather eccentric professor’s uniform. Flat fronted slacks a button up shirt, usually long sleeved, cravat (yes!) and on his feet, soft soled moccasins. He would go miles out of his way, to traditional First Nations vendors to buy these, rarely buying or wearing anything else.
Later in life his uniform changed slightly. The slacks gave way, thank God, to jeans often held up by a decorative, and occasionally embarrassing buckled belt. The button up shirts often became cowboy style. The cravat, predictably, gave way to a bola tie. In short, my father became a cowboy drama professor, riding the range from Quincy Drive to his campus office in a red T-bird. The moccasins however, remained.
Despite being of average height and quite portly, my dad had tiny feet for a man. About men’s size six. Since I wear ladies eight (men’s 5-5.5) his moccasins are only a little big on me. So when I pulled them out of the bag, I promptly put them on. They fit. They were comfortable. I have chronically cold feet so I need slippers all the time. It was a match made in shoe heaven. I’m wearing my magic shoes as I write this.
When I say magic shoes, you might think of the tragic Hans Christian Anderson heroine who danced her way to two wooden feet. I however, think of Bunty, who has no Wikipedia entry, because practically no one has heard of her. Bunty is the plucky heroine of a children’s picture book from the 60s called BUNTY AND HER MAGIC SHOES. The story is more or less the same as Hans Christian Anderson’s except without the amputated feet. It’s not often a picture book features amputations, after all.
That my father bequeathed me, albeit by accident, a pair of magic shoes, is fitting (excuse the pun) because it was he who read BUNTY to me and my sisters, repeatedly. Apart from Alice in Wonderland, read at a leisurely pace over a long camping trip, BUNTY is the only book I can remember either of my parents ever reading to me. I can’t quite express the wonder of these Bunty readings. My father, an actor, was prone to accents, and always read Bunty in what I think was a Nottingham accent, although it may have been Yorkshire. At any rate, he didn’t pronounce her name “bun-tea”, but more like “boon-teh”. Boon-teh, as I said, doesn’t lose her feet. Instead her faithful teddy-bear, Teddy Pink Toes, tackles her, “joost lahk a roogbeh playeh” ”. Imagine Hagrid or Jon Snow reading it and you get the idea.
At any rate, my magic shoes don’t make me dance. They’re magic because despite the fact that I wear them for hours every day, with no socks, they don’t smell. They don’t smell of my feet, and they don’t smell of my dad’s feet. They don’t smell of feet at all. I just took one off and shoved my nose into it. Nothing but fresh leather. I have other leather shoes; if I wear them without socks, they smell. These shoes are magic, I tell you, magic.
But more than their magical smell repelling properties, the shoes make me remember my dad, and Bunty, possibly my first favorite book. That’s a kind of magic too I guess, one that I treasure.
Have you lost your father? What did he leave you?