Jimmy's New Shoes
By Marie A. Kennedy

 

My son Jimmy has sky-blue eyes, curly hair and a smile that lights up a room.  Two days before Jimmy's fifth birthday, my husband (whose nickname is Chooch) and I took Jimmy to buy a new pair of high-top tennis shoes.  At the store, after looking up and down the display of shoes, Dad found a pair in the colors of Jimmy's favorite baseball team.  Jimmy's eyes widened as he asked, "Let's try these, okay, Mom?"
     
I found the style in his size, and he sat down on a nearby stool.  I had a lump in my throat as I took off his old shoes and then removed the braces he had worn since he was sixteen months old, when the doctors had told us he had cerebral palsy.
     
Of course, we had bought shoes before, but never shoes like these.  Normally we could only pick shoes that would fit over his braces, but Jimmy's therapy had been going so well, his specialist said he could wear a pair of shoes without braces a few days a week.
     
I bent down, adjusted his socks and slipped the shoes on Jimmy's feet.  I laced them up, and the instant I finished tying the second bow, Jimmy slid off the stool and went to the mirror.  He stood for a moment gazing at himself, his hands on his hips, like Superman.
     
Chooch and I were as excited as he was.  "Jimmy," I said, "why don't you walk around and see how they feel?"
     
He took a few steps and turned to see if we were watching.
     
"Go on, Honey," I told him.  "You're doing great."
     
I was holding Chooch's hand, and we both squeezed tightly as we watched Jimmy walk faster, and then almost run in his new shoes.  Jimmy almost running!  My heart was full to bursting.
     
Still watching my son march around the shoe department with a big smile on his face, I asked Chooch, "How much are they?"
     
We both laughed.  "Who cares?" he answered.  "Jimmy is getting these shoes."
     
I put the old shoes in the box, and we paid for the new ones.
     
As we walked to the car, Jimmy thanked us.  On the ride home, he sat in front with Dad, clicking his feet and admiring his new shoes the whole way.  I sat quietly in the back, thinking of all we had been through, especially Jimmy, to get to this point.
     
At home, Jimmy hummed happily as we went inside the house.  He was eager to call everyone and tell them about his new shoes, but he accepted my suggestion that we call just a few people and then surprise the rest at his birthday party.  After our calls, we went through our nightly routine of a warm bath, lotion massage and a few stretches.  I put on his night braces and kissed him good night.
     
"Thank you for my new shoes," he said again.  "I love them!"  He fell asleep with the shoes right next to him on the bed.
     
The next morning, as I helped him dress for school, I gently reminded him that he would still have to wear his braces most days.  "The therapist says you can wear your new shoes only a few days a week.  Remember?"
     
"I know, Mom.  My braces are cool," he assured me.  "I can wear them, too."
     
As we walked to the front door to catch the bus, Jimmy smiled up at me and said, "I bet Miss Cindy will say, 'Oh my gosh!  I can't believe it!'"
     
When the bus came and the driver, Miss Cindy, opened the door, Jimmy walked up the steps holding on to the rail and paused at the top.  "Look!" he said, "look at my new shoes!  And no braces!"
     
"Oh, my gosh!  I can't believe it!" Miss Cindy said.  Jimmy turned to me and grinned.  Then he went to his seat and blew me a kiss, giving me the thumbs-up sign, the way he always did,
     
I walked slowly back to the house, wondering about how his teachers and friends would react.  I wished I could be there.  I paced a lot during that day and wrote in my journal.  I prepared some snacks for his school birthday party the next day.  Chooch was decorating the house and yard for Jimmy's big family birthday party the next night.  I couldn't wait to see the smiles of Jimmy's grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as they watched him parade around in his new high-tops.  It was something we'd all hoped for but had been afraid to believe was possible.
     
It was a beautiful day, so I went outside to wait for the bus fifteen minutes early.  I couldn't wait for Jimmy to come home.  I feel this way every day he goes to school, but that day, when the bus turned the corner, I wanted to run down the street to meet it.  But I didn't.  I stayed put until the bus pulled up.  There was my son, that big smile still on his face.
     
He blew everyone kisses good-bye.  We walked across the street, Jimmy telling me all about his day.  One of his teachers, Miss Susan, had "screamed when she saw me," he said.  "I think she cried a little, too."  He stopped.  "Mother, this was my happiest day ever."
     
I couldn't speak and tears welled up in my eyes as I bent down to hug him.  He wrapped his arms around my neck and said, "I know.  Me, too."  We both cried and hugged each other, then laughed.
     
Holding hands, we walked slowly up our driveway, both of us getting used to Jimmy's new shoes.