There the small box sat unobtrusively, neatly placed in the back corner of the wide, top drawer of my mother’s dresser, where it had been for over 30 years.
Off-white cardboard – 5 ¾” long by 3 ¾” wide by 2 ¾” high. Style # 284. Size 2. Color white.
Baby shoes from Mrs. Day’s Ideal Baby Shoe Company, Danvers, Mass.
Joan Elizabeth Cummings Batura had died a few years earlier. All my life she had dreaded the prospect of growing old, regularly telling my father and her husband she didn’t want to stay around too long beyond her prime. The Lord answered her prayers – she lived just 8 days beyond her 80th birthday.
On this particular day, I was in Texas to help my father pack and relocate to our home in Colorado Springs. It can be emotionally difficult to pare down and box up a lifetime of memories. When my dad pulled out that small box, you could almost see him looking down through the corridor of time.
“All five of you wore these shoes,” he told me, lifting the top off the box to reveal the faded, dried out white leather, their short laces dangling down. “It’s hard to believe you were all once so tiny.”
Mrs. Day’s baby shoe company can be traced back to the early part of the twentieth century and claimed Queen Elizabeth as one of its earliest high-profile customers. Mrs. Day was a real person who pioneered the development of left and right shoes for infants, and eventually succeeded in placing her shop’s products in department stores.
“The shoe of the baby determines the foot of the adult,” Mrs. Day liked to say – perhaps something of an exaggeration – but still a principle that nevertheless extends to a lot more than footwear. Social science continues to affirm and confirm that the vast majority of children eventually grow up to parent just as they themselves were parented. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of all of childhood – but especially the very impressionable and influential early years of a child’s life.
The shoes seemed to get my father talking that day, reminiscing about bringing us all home from the hospital. The long days and sleepless nights. A miscarriage between child three and four. The moment he learned he was a father to a daughter after three straight sons. “A girl?!” he exclaimed, repeating his response to the doctor in the waiting room. “You mean I have a daughter?!”
When it comes to running gear, there’s an old adage that there’s no such thing as the perfect shoe – only the perfect shoe for you. With all due respect to Mrs. Day, I think that also applies to baby shoes.
But when it comes to babies?
Every child is ideal.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward,” wrote the Psalmist. “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).
Whether boy or girl, calm or feisty, blue eyes or brown, small or tall, fat or thin, bald or hairy – whether born with or without any known malady or physical, emotional or mental challenges, each and every child is God’s ideal creation. He doesn’t makes mistakes. This is why every child is worth protecting whether born or pre-born.
It’s been said the very first steps a child takes are the steps into their parent’s heart. I think that’s also why my mother could never let go of our first physical shoes – and why I’ll never let go of my gratitude to God for the privilege of walking through the first forty years of life with her as my mom.