It was around 7pm, and my brothers and I were sitting, gathered in my paternal grandmother’s (“the little grandma’s”) one-bedroom apartment on 54th and 3rd avenue. My grandfather, who suffered for years after enduring a stroke soon after I was born, had recently passed. Both of my parents grew up in New York City, and even though they raised us in Illinois (and abroad) and my relatives would come visit, these summer visits back to the City to see our relatives were always the same to me, almost like coming home. As our parents and other adult family members chatted about nothing of interest (at least to us kids), Peter, Teddy and I sat on the floor to watch the “Wizard of Oz” for the first time, on our grandmother’s black and white television.
The movie kept me captivated, especially the music. But what stood out the most to me were Dorothy’s glowing and sparkly red slippers. They were the prettiest shoes I had ever seen, and I was instantly in love with them. Remembering my own lot in life, I quickly altered my position, so that I was now sitting on my legs with my tiny brown shoe-boots pressed up against my buttocks. With my feet now hidden, I daydreamed that I was Dorothy, and pictured myself wearing those sparkling red shoes.
“Meggie, boys, come say good-bye.” It was my Dad, beckoning me and my brothers to the door as everyone else began to leave the apartment for the night. Startled, I quickly rose and was snapped out of my unrealistic fantasy. But despite only being ten and allowing myself to fantasize on occasion, I already knew and had come to accept that anything that looked as sparkly and beautiful as those red shoes were out of reach, at least for me. I already knew there were much more important things in life.
I stared at the beautiful black patent leather shoes that had been tucked away in Savanna’s closet for months. “Found them!” I called out. We had been getting ready for John to take her to the “Father-Daughter” dance being held that evening at her kindergarten. Although her dress had been hanging in anticipation outside of her closet for weeks, I assumed her “fancy” shoes would still fit. I assumed wrongly. “Mommy, they hurt my feet,” she announced rather matter-of-factly. I grunted with disappointment, but called out to our sitter to see if she could run out and buy her another black pair in the next size. As Savanna and I sat alone together, she began to try and soothe my feelings, as she often tries to do when she sees me looking unhappy. “Mommy, don’t worry. It will be fine. The next pair will be pretty too and fit me!” She was right about that, but not what I was really fretting about. How do I teach my daughter, born without any apparent visible imperfection (unlike her mom and brothers), that you can’t always get what you want? That lesson had come to me without any parental intervention.
This past Sunday, I watched the Academy Awards show. Another year, another evening of glam, which for me never disappoints. Earlier in the day while working out, I caught the host of the E! Entertainment Channel showcasing high-end shoe designers, suggesting eye-catching designs worthy of Oscar’s red carpet. One model wore a pair of heels brilliantly designed with gold and glitz, compliments of the masterful Jimmy Choo. Even though it was the shape of an ankle-boot (within the realm of my possibilities), they had many peep-holes making it an impossible fit for the shape of my small, one-toed feet. Another model appeared wearing a stunning favorite– a pair of sparkling raspberry red shoes, with matching glittery bows. Instantly they reminded me of Dorothy’s red ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. I chuckled to myself as the E! Host suggested that it was not too late to head to the local mall and find a similar pair of dazzling footwear. “Not likely!” I practically said aloud. And then as I sat down to read the New York Times, I admittedly headed to the Style & Fashion section, one of my favorite Sunday morning activities. I smiled as I noted a new T Magazine Blog called, “The Daily Shoe,” making a mental note that it is a good thing I have this (lack of) finger-toe thing going for me, since I would have trouble running a weekly blog suggesting new varieties of shoe styles women would want to wear.
That night after the Awards show ended, long after John fell asleep, I stayed awake and remained on a natural high, thinking about all the beautiful outfits I had just seen. Nevertheless, as much as I love the look of beautiful shoes, the pleasure of wearing them has always eluded me. But early on, this taught me one of the most important life lessons—that life is a journey where you can’t always get what you want, and things can’t always come easily for you. Even in Oz, Dorothy’s journey was less about a return to Kansas than about her spiritual journey and path to empowerment. She had been forced throughout the movie to be patient and suffer delayed gratification. Dorothy was convinced that at the end of the road, a great man named Oz would guide her home. But as it turned out, and to her deep disappointment, Oz was a fake, with no magical power. Ultimately, she discovered she would have to solve her problem with her own power. First, though, she had to learn to be open to failure, amenable to unimaginable forms of creativity and even chance. And there was an even greater benefit. Along the way, Dorothy made wonderful friends she would not otherwise have met, had she not struggled on her quest.
It was with this frame of mind I thought about our daughter Savanna. I know that as her parent, I have to ensure she does not grow to simply expect she will get everything she wants. She must learn that a snap of her fingers (or click of her heels) won’t bring the world running to her feet. The other night before bed, as I was reading her a story, my darling little six-year old grabbed my hand and said with full sincerity, “Mommy, your one finger is so cute! You are so lucky!” I turned to her warmly. “Honey, thanks. I am lucky, but not because my fingers are cute or not. It’s because I have learned from having fewer fingers and toes, it means we’re not always meant to have everything.” “Why?” Almost stumped, I channeled what I knew best…great lyrics (from the Rolling Stones).
I turned to her and gave it my best shot. “You can’t always get what you want, Savanna. But if you try sometime, and follow the path made just for you, you just might find, you get what you need.”