Posted by: sulya | 26 December 2009

The Red Shoes

Been a long time since I read or saw any interpretation of the story of The Red Shoes, but the most important detail is that the dancer who wears the red shoes dances better than anyone else, but cannot stop dancing.  If memory serves, she dances herself to death.

I bought the red shoes pictured above my first year back in Canada.  They were waterproof but not particularly warm because they were trail running shoes, not winter boots.  I knew that when I bought them.  But I went for long walks with my then one year-old son on mostly cleared sidewalks so my feet were warm from moving.

Thinking about it now, I have no idea how I used them for three solid winters in this climate, but I did.  In fact, I probably wore them between 250-280 days a year for three years.  Partly because the winter and wet spring weather here lasts a long time and partly because much to the chagrin of one of my friends, I’m not much of a fashion plate.  T’is what it is.

Those red shoes were with me through some of the darkest days of my life so far, and for some of my strongest, most self-affirming days as well.  They were on my feet as I moved out of one life into another.  They were with me for my first winter in the new life.  Every step.  Every difficult, challenging, liberating step.  I scraped snow and ice off of the first car I’ve ever owned in my life in those shoes, I broke fingernails getting my son into his car seat in those shoes, I learned how to walk alone with music and take pictures in those shoes; to cope with the time without my son. I remembered why I went to film school in those shoes.

I have never been more tired then I was when I wore those shoes.

I survived new causes of sadness in those shoes.

I learned how to be happy again in those shoes.

When I went to use them again this fall, they were ripped, they were worn out.  Done.  My first real walk in the snow this year, my toes were freezing together.  It was miserable.  I went to a local store and bought boots.  Real, leather, waterproof, fleece lined boots.  I wore them out of the store and put the red shoes in the box the boots had come in to carry them home.

I took the picture of them on  the floor because I knew I was going to throw them out and I knew I needed to honour them somehow.  I left them in the box and the box wound up in recycling.

The recycling wound up in a big pile by the door because the boyo got sick and I couldn’t leave the apartment to take it out.  The ex came to bring some supplies because the boyo had been sick long enough and I had been unable to leave the house long enough, that we were running out of a few basics.  On his way out I asked him if he would take out the recycling and trash for me.

He did.

I didn’t realize until days later that, in the end, it was he who threw out my red shoes.

I asked him to and he did.  And it seems fitting, somehow, it seems right.

And I will learn to dance beautifully in my boots and in every pair of shoes I own from now on.

But I have promised myself that no matter how much I love dancing, I will not ever dance myself to death.





  1. Never a better eulogy to well-loved shoes and the life they reflected! I enjoyed the post; came over from Holidailies.

  2. Such a beautiful post, Sulya.

    I especially liked the powerful build of the three sentences about being tired, surviving sadness, then learning how to be happy again in those shoes.

    Congrats too on this post listed in Best of Holidailies! Yayayay!

  3. Holly – Thank you very much for visiting and for the kind words.

    Kitty – Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. And thanks for the congrats. I’m grateful you drew my attention to holidailies in the first place!

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