Orthopedic Birthday Shoes
“What do you want for your birthday?” Mom asks.
On the surface, this is a straightforward question requiring an equally-straightforward answer. Beneath the veneer of our casual conversation, however, the proceedings of a nuanced negotiation have just been set into motion.
Women and their mothers; they don’t chat. They play Chess.
Mom’s goal is to purchase a gift which meets the following criteria:
1. It is clever.
2. It is something I would not have thought to request but will thoroughly enjoy.
3. It is fairly inexpensive and easy to come by.
My goal is to receive a gift which meets the following criteria:
1. It is clever.
2. It is something I have fantasized about purchasing for myself hundreds of times (but haven’t because of the considerable expense).
3. It is something Mom will think to purchase without direct orders from me so that I come out on the other end of this birthday looking loved and lucky, which I am, rather than demanding and greedy, which I am.
The board is set. Mom gently glides the first pawn into play.
“What do you want for your birthday?”
I respond by saying something along the lines of Don’t worry or I don’t need a thing in the world, Mom.
“I gave your brother one hundred dollars for his birthday last month,” she says.
“That would be great,” I say.
And it would. Not as great as two hundred dollars, but…
“Well, then that is what I’ll do,” she says.
“Well thanks, Mom. You really don’t need to, though.” I am the sweetest daughter anyone ever had.
“But I’ll tell you what I really need,” I say. “and that is a new laptop.”
I laugh. It is my signal to Mom that I am making a joke. A joke that she should take seriously.
“I’d like to get you a pair of those Vionic sandals,” she says.
I don’t know what Vionic sandals are. I know what they are not: a laptop. I pretend she has said nothing.
“I mean, you don’t need to get me a laptop, obviously. I really need one, though. I am doing so much writing. I have all these deadlines for the magazine right now, and the kids are always hogging the computer doing homework or whatever. But, I mean, Todd will get me one.”
If you don’t.
“I just worry so much about your feet,” she says.
“You worry about my feet!?”
“I do,” she says.
“But I don’t have any problems with my feet,” I say.
“I just have such a time with my feet,” she says.
“Yes, but I don’t.”
“Well, but you’re 39.”
That one stumps me. Are women who wear a size 39 shoe prone to heel spurs and fallen arches? 39 is a pretty average size. And since when does she use Euro sizes? Then it hits me: I am turning 39.
She means me.
Not my foot.
Oh, no she didn’t…
“Well, I don’t have the first problem with my feet, mother, but if you want to buy me orthopedic shoes for my birthday, you just go right ahead.”
“I don’t have to,” she says.
“No, please. By all means. Send me a link and I will pick out some orthopedic shoes.”
“They’re not orthopedic shoes, they are just really comfortable shoes. Good arch support. And they’re really pretty, some of them.”
“Great,” I say.
“I will just give you money, if you’d rather. It is just that I worry about your feet.”
“No, I know. You mentioned, and that’s fine,” I say. “I’ll get the shoes.”
I pick out a pair. A neutral grey flip-flop. The reviewers on Zappos.com raved about the arch support, so I am sure they’ll feel like a dream. And when Mother’s Day rolls around, I will repay the favor – get Mom a shiny new walker. I might even go the extra mile and put tennis balls on the feet.
Because I worry about her balance.