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I am soooooooo grateful for new shoes.

They feel so great, I’m like Tigger in Winnie-the-Poohbouncing with joy.

I’m not going to run a marathon or anything, but these new Brooks Ariels have reduced my pain and re-energized me.  Truly, I could not walk along a single sidewalk for “date night” with my husband — I was bouncing-skipping-playing all the way.  (Wonder if you have to be married awhile to appreciate the humor in this.)

New shoes are a big deal for some people with disabilities.

When I graduated as a rehabilitation counselor, and the fog of all-school-all-the-time began to lift, I promised myself I would write real thank you notes to people I love.

I began with the eldest aunt on the Finnish side of the family.

She had sent a generous graduation cheque, which I spent on new shoes for my new job — my first as a counselor, and my first full-time, Green Card, salaried job in the U.S.

I was so proud, I sent her a photo of the shoes; a photo of me on my first day of work; and a long thank you note about why good shoes make the difference between mobility-with-purpose or moving in pain.

This was the first pair of dress shoes I had bought since becoming disabled, and I explained why the purchase alone was such a big deal.  It proved that I had finally overcome my vanity and grief at being unable to wear strappy sandals and other “girly” shoes.  (Sadly, this grief lasted far too long; it was part of a greater sense of loss of my notion of womanhood, because I stopped wearing dresses and skirts, after becoming disabled.)

It was such a pleasure to write the thank you letter; there was a page or so about her influence on my life, and my appreciation of her years of being such a strong role model.

Through notes and calls later, I learned that my aunt still suffered pain and mobility issues as a result of a bad car accident, decades ago.  We shared some humor about all the different socks and shoe types we’ve tried to reduce pain and improve mobility — fashion wasn’t a factor.

This bonding over footwear deepened our aunt-niece love, and we became better friends.

She’s in her 80s, and lives on the other side of the continent.  I miss her a lot, and send a mental note of thanks, with a happy grin, whenever I buy new shoes.