- We want the shoes made from soft bendable leather and rounded at the toes.
- We want shoes whose insides are cushioned with soft material, probably lining leather or a breathable cloth.
- Children are allowed to wear shoes without socks — they have horrible morning breath, too, but they don’t get smelly feet.
- Most important, we want shoes whose soles can bend as far back as our children demand.
Muna, our three-year-old daughter, started school in January. On the morning of her first day, GB, Nanny Viv and I packed ourselves into the car to see her off. Our overwrought miens took the seats next to us. We looked like a family going to church on a Sunday — Nanny Viv had on the wedges she only saves for special occasions, I was in a jacket that photographs well. GB denies this but I swear he had slicked his hair with oily pomade.
I want to tell you how Muna bawled her eyes out after we dropped her off. How she scratched Teacher Veronica in the face as she struggled to calm her down. How I got to my desk and wondered whether she understood what school is for.
Whether she knew that Talia and Muriuki would later become her best friends. But I won’t. Not today. Today we fry a different kettle of fish.
Schools close for the December holiday early next month. The shoes Muna wore on that first day have taken her through her entire first year of kindergarten. Aside from some peeling leather at the toe front and straps, those shoes have held their own.
I honestly did not think they would. I bought them for Sh500 from some unbearably stuffy exhibition stall on Moi Avenue (Nairobi) playing bongo music. They exclusively stock low-end shoes imported from China.
Muna has the most adorable feet. They are chubby and flat at the bottom. Her toes are all almost the same length. (Oh, how I wish my editor would let me insert a picture here.)
I considered getting her shoes from a well-established shoe store that has outlets at every corner of this town. A store where my mother herself had bought me shoes for school. Where the shoes are gummed and stitched with hand-me-down sentiments, and laced with nostalgia. Proudly made in Kenya. Tough as a rhino’s hide.
You do not just buy a shoe here, you buy into the history of a third-world economy. I opted not to because the shoes did not check the features in my cheat sheet.
I did not want to get her second-hand shoes because … you know … because she is our firstborn and she was going to school for the first time and we wanted everything to be brand spanking new. I know. I know. My fleeting desires were ridiculously founded in my own braggadocio.