"They're just shoes," my husband said with fear in his eyes as I sat sobbing on the couch, tears streaming down my cheeks with the injustice of it all. "You don't get it," I told him. He didn't argue. He didn't get it. No one got it. Not even the employee at Ross who stared with concern as my eyes welled up with tears when none of their women's flip-flops fit my feet. "Our shipment comes in next Monday," she said slowly. I shoved my feet into my lone pair of sneakers and sniffled my way out of the store with a "thanks anyway." You see, after my pregnancy with Wylie, my shoes don't fit again. My feet are still a little fatter than normal, but they're also a little longer. Just the tiniest bit. Every store I went to, I ran into the same problem: the size eights no longer fit, my heel sticking just so off the back or they were too narrow. I spent the morning of the 4th of July running from store to store, hiking my way through the mall in hopes no one would see me and in hopes I wouldn't have an emotional breakdown. Eventually, I found a pair of women's 8 1/2 flip-flops at PacSun that saved me. My hands were all but trembling as I placed them on the counter. "These will be a little uncomfortable at first," explained the cashier, "but they're Rainbow and that means once you wear them in they'll be comfortable forever." I bit my lip, nodded and hurried my way out of the store. A whole half-size bigger. I had a baby and all I have to show for it is an increased shoe size.
They're just shoes. They're just pants. They're just shirts. They're just things but they're things that are amiss solely because I was pregnant with Wylie and now she's not here anymore. I walk a weird line with trying to figure out how to balance all of it, these little reminders of loss and change and also my acknowledgement that I am forever changed regardless of whether or not my old shoes still fit. Her room is still locked up and unchanged, filled with baby gear and clothes in the closet that I'm not ready to look at again, let alone do something with. Whenever I feel that I'm making progress towards a normal life -- like the Orange Theory exercise classes I've masochistically signed up for -- I feel like I also take a giant leap backwards. Because maybe they are just shoes. But somehow they also aren't.
We closed out yesterday with our city's annual display of fireworks. It was Ethan's first year staying awake long enough to see the fireworks and it took a lot of energy on my part to get him to stay awake that long. He was terrified at first and then as we slowly backed away from the outskirts of the park to a nearby lot, he declared that he had loved them. "This is a great show," he exclaimed, smiling up towards the sky. I never liked the 4th of July. I don't like the noise and the chaos and the fireworks. "This is just magical," Ethan said, and that was all I needed to appreciate it a little more. To savor every moment of standing outside in the sticky South Florida summer heat with my family, watching the fireworks up in the sky, my new shoes on my feet and Wylie inside all of us. We are all different now, but we are better for having loved her.