A little pair of red shoes

Little red Tap shoes

“Oh, what pretty dancing shoes!” said the old man. “They will stay on securely when you dance.”

“Dance on,” said the angel in long white robes, “dance on you must, in your red shoes, till you are pale and cold, weary and wasted.” from Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Red Shoes” *

The Red Shoes b

The little pair of red shoes watches me every day – reproachfully, I think. They were made for dancing, but they have not touched the ground in decades. On their soles are the imprints and scuffs from many, many Little red Tap shoes cdifferent dance floors, of many moons ago. What did the feet look like that wore them? Were they pretty, were they swift, did they stamp and tap tempestuously or did they skip and glide playfully? Sometimes I put the shoes on my feet. They are made of leather, inside and out and also the soles, except for the metal bits, and they still fit me comfortably, after all these years. But I have never danced in them.

Not properly.

When we were very small our father farmed with rabbits. These were bunnies that weren’t intended to be pets. We never kept any for ourselves. But we did go and visit them in their enclosures, especially when there were sweet little babies. When friends were visiting, we’d show them the babies too. Then, everyone wanted a rabbit.

A soft 3.baby rabbit must be the most heart-melting thing! My sister next up from me was nine years old when she got involved in trading. “You want a baby rabbit? Let’s make an exchange.” I can’t say it was the start of a long and lucrative career as a trader, but this was her one barter that remains memorable. Perhaps it was her last one too, no one knows. But what she got in exchange for a white, weaned, velvety soft baby rabbit was something quite fantastic: a pair of red shoes. Red tap dancing shoes.

Oh my!

Little red Tap shoes b

I was only six then and the size 4 shoes were miles too big for me, probably also for my sister, but she fancied she wanted to be a tap dancer and so onto her slender, dainty feet they went. And when she let me have a turn, with my feet shoved firmly into the toes, onto mine they went too, leaving big gaps behind my heels. We stamped and stomped and tapped furiously, on any floor that resounded, until I’m sure we drove everyone mad. Rhythmically and otherwise. Probably mostly otherwise. Heel-toe-toe-heel, or whatever. Ta da! Ta da!

Little red Tap shoes i

In time, my sister decided that she was never going to be a tap dancer and passed them to me – her younger, more stubbornly optimistic, wishful, fanciful sibling. In our eldest sister’s old Swan Lake ballet tutu I would stamp around in full belief I was getting something right, not the slightest bit perturbed that I was a spectacle.

But children do grow up and sooner or later, become self conscious. Without anybody telling me, I’d come to realise I wasn’t even a proper tap dancer’s left foot. And lessons were never an option.

I put away the shoes.

They have moved with me from address to address. Wherever I make a home, the red shoes find a place with me. Never in a cupboard, never hidden from view. Only six years of my life were without them.

Little red Tap shoes f

Yes, I am still stubbornly optimistic, wishful and fanciful. Which brings me to my point. I need you to pass on this message, before the window closes for good:

{Wanted} Can a tap dancing teacher in the Wellington/ Paarl area please step forward.

Because….

Dance I must, in my red shoes, until I am pale and cold, weary and wasted.”

The Red Shoes c

The Red Shoes d

* Re-reading the story by Hans Christian Anderson today, I am quite horrified by its scary aspects. I can’t remember being frightened by it as a child, though, or being affected by the gruesome idea of a vain little girl having her feet cut off  – it seemed more interesting that the shoes couldn’t be removed. Had I believed the underlying threat in the story, I would certainly never have dared to put those red dancing shoes on my feet – not then, not ever!

Little red Tap shoes j

8 thoughts on “A little pair of red shoes

  1. Oh Jeanne, you transport me, you make me pause, , your stories make me happy! Thank you for another precious moment from your life~ I will always sit at your feet and listen! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeanne.. your ability to transport the reader or listener into your vivid recollections of yesteryear … punctuated with all the larger-than-life character analyses and visual descriptions, the sounds one can almost hear and smells which make one believe someone is baking bread or picking roses or making silage nearby, capturing the moments as only you can…. I loved this story and look forward to subscribing. So beautifully written, and always with such love… thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

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