The Girl In the Ruby Slippers

By Alison January 19, 2014 3 Comments 3 Min Read

Was there a time in your life when you felt more real to yourself than you do now?  When you didn’t dwell on authenticity because there was no distance between who you were and who you thought you should be? Was there a golden era? A time you look back upon and do not need to squint through rose tinted glasses to see it exactly as it was: because for a short while you were everything and more than you ever hoped to be?
I was thirty four. Brocantehome was only a few years old and Finley still dragged Mummy Bear with him wherever we went. I was thinner than I had been in ten years, Mark had recently left, the sun shone every morning throughout a rather heavenly Indian Summer and I wore red shoes everywhere: red flip flops, dark red heeled boots or a prized pair of red patent leather heels with a happy little bow on them that had me channelling Dorothy and still believing in my very own yellow brick road.

I felt together. In control of everything other than the mouse squatting in my fireplace. Certain of who I was going to be and truly, madly and deeply in love with a man I did not know was not free to love me back. Those were my halycon days. He was, he said, my grey man and I was the girl in the red shoes: a rainbow in a grey life. That heartbreak was sure to follow didn’t matter. For a while I lived only in the moment.  The house a place I lived in instead of living for. My days filled with hours spent on a treadmill, afternoons sweeping the back garden, chatting with the neighbours and trawling car boot sales for little pieces of  myself. There was a simplicity to life then that I crave now.

For despite our best efforts, our Halycon days do not last forever: indeed we need darkness to be able to identify light, the pits of sorrow to recognise real joy. As that Summer turned to Winter, the lovely grey man popped me into a box on a grey shelf in his grey house and I took off my red shoes and never contemplated wearing rainbows on my feet ever after.

Until now. Until I stood in the midst of a busy sale aisle in Marks and Spencer on Friday morning and spied a darling pair of red heeled Autograph shoe boots in the most gorgeous deep red leather and had a sudden flashback to who I used to be. And suddenly owning red shoes seemed to matter. Despite the fact that my Mum looked disturbed by the height of the heel and I assumed an air of heaven knows what as I pushed my blue socked feet into them among a sea of old ladies fighting over woolly jumpers, thrust my shoulders back and felt immediately at home with myself in the kind of puffy anorak and stiletto combination not oft seen around Southport…

Yes, despite all that I shoved them into my basket along with a steak ready meal my son would sell his Nana for and took them to the till before I had a chance to do the kind of dithering that usually has me emptying my basket before I can get my purse out.

This isn’t a matter of chasing what is gone. There are things I know now I could not have known back then. Nor is it a desperate caterwauling cry for the grey man. He has three little boys now and is I hope, happy. No. It isn’t that at all. Instead it is a whisper to my soul. A reminder of how it feels to be her again. To be me again. To once again be open to possibility. To see if these ruby red slippers still fit the all grown up 41 year old woman I am now.

It isn’t even about the shoes. Though damn it, they are FABULOUS! Instead it is I suppose about getting my power back. For as the good witch Glinda said… I’ve always had the power, I just forgot how to use it…


  1. Vivian says:

    I completely understand. I recently decided I am not too old to dress however I want and bought bejeweled motorcycle boots, leggings and a mini skirt. I haven’t felt this much myself in 15 years.

  2. Heather says:

    I think Sarah Ban Breathnach would tell you that your authentic self was calling to you through those shoes.

  3. Ali says:

    I know exactly what your talking about. Isn’t it odd how something as simple as a pair of shoes (in your case, boots), sparks that very memory.

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