The Tennis Shoes
When is a size 12 not a size 12?
NOTE: This story is more or less autobiographical and is dedicated to my mother, Priscilla, who would be 82 today. She passed away six years ago. Anyone who knew her would totally understand the letter she wrote me (in the story). Happy Birthday, Mom.
In the mid-90s, Ron Jacobs had been in country far too long without a break. His clothing was wearing thin, and his tennis shoes had holes in the soles. In country, Jacobs had to walk everywhere or risk being robbed on a bus. Taxis were just too expensive, so he walked. Going out of the country wasn’t an option at this point, but finding shoes that fit his feet was an even bigger problem. As a friend told him when he saw him wearing winter boots, “I’ve only seen shoes that big in a museum!” The local markets just didn’t have his size.
Ron knew several people who had gone to Hong Kong, so he asked them to bring back a pair of tennis shoes, size 12, sight unseen. He didn’t care at this point. All three couples came back empty and with apologies, mostly because they couldn’t find the time to go look for them.
His last resort was to write to his mother in the States. Ron explained the situation to her and pleaded with her to send him a pair of size 12 tennis shoes because his were falling apart at the seams. Three times he mentioned the shoe size and told her color and style didn’t matter. Even price didn’t matter. Even as Jacobs wrote about price, he knew from past experience that his mother would look for the cheapest pair because that’s just the way she was.
When Ron received a box from the States 92 days after mailing his letter, he was ecstatic. Finally, he could go out in public again without having to worry about getting wet feet or what the shoes looked like. He ripped open the package and there were two pairs of shoes.
The letter from his mother was short: “Ronny, you’ll never guess what I got. I got these two pair of shoes at a garage sale, at half price! I’m so proud of myself. Hope you like them. Love, Mom.”
He pulled out the shoes and they were mostly unused, but then his heart sank when he looked inside both pairs of shoes.
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