red shoes

One night a week or two ago, Alice and I were in the kitchen baking peanut butter cookies when the doorbell rang.

It was after dinner already, and I wasn’t sure who might be coming around. I thought, maybe, the UPS man. With another box of Christmas to leave on my porch.

So I shook the flour off my hands, carried Alice to the door and opened it to my friend Mario , in his green carpenter’s apron.

It had been a couple of months since I’d seen him at all. And he had never just appeared at my house before.

I think I yelled.

“Mario! AAAhh! Come in!”

“Be careful, Jennifer,” he said, stomping his feet. “My shoes are dirty.”

“My house is dirty. Come in. Please.”

He came in. But I could not make him sit down.

Mario had recently returned from a long hoped-for trip to his hometown in Leon, Guanajuato.

Before he left, one of his twin 4-year-olds had asked for red leather boots. So while he was in Mexico, Mario visited a shoe factory and asked the foreman to make a pair. (That alone makes the story worth telling, don’t you think?)

But red is not a very popular color, the foreman told him. And it wouldn’t be worth it to him to dye and process a whole length of leather for just one pair of little girls’ shoes.

So Mario asked how many pairs would be worth it.

“I went back to the border with 14 pairs of red boots.”

Pride and triumph.

He handed me a box for Alice.

It makes me dizzy, sometimes, how big the world is. And I have always had a weakness for red shoes.

We were playing in the backyard this afternoon as the sun was setting. Alice made a sweet little ritual of collecting handfuls of rose petals (Are the roses supposed to be blooming still, by the way?) and scattering them. Over and over.

Then she would race out to the brick walkway and reach up to touch the moon.

“Touch moon,” she would say, lurching on tiptoe.

“It’s just too high,” I told her.

“Mama touch moon?”

“Too high for Mama.”

Then she shook her head. “Too high.”

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