All The Shoes I’ve Bought for My Three-Year-Old

And that he refuses to wear.

Image: Steven Depolo

But first, the shoes he will wear. A pair of shoes that his brother wore in the year 2013, and that are no longer in production by the shoemaker. Look at them. Perhaps they don’t look like much to you, but I assure you, they contain magic. Lila Cerullo — daughter of a shoemaker, the “Be” to Elena Greco’s “Fri” in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and a woman whose own creative awakening was occasioned by the enduring, lowly, unexpectedly beautiful craft of shoemaking — could write a book about these shoes. Her life would be a testament to them, to their power to inspire, and also to break one’s heart. These shoes are witnesses to history:

So she thought of starting with a single pair of shoes, just to demonstrate to her father how beautiful and comfortable they were.

“Choo choo” boots? Childhood is just one indignity after another.

No! Are you nuts?! He doesn’t care that we are in the Adirondacks and the snow is six inches deep. But, we ask, mightn’t we stomp in these satisfyingly stompy boots? Of course we might, but what message would that send, mindless stomping in boots, familial stride matching stride? His magic shoes may not protect him from freezing snow seeping into his socks, but they WILL make sure that we know his preferences, and isn’t that what matters? It is, and that is why he showed us by happily playing in the snow for hours with freezing wet feet.

Okay, actually he does wear these shoes, but only because they are his “inside” shoes at school, and he is less interested in imposing his will upon his teachers. Also, as a part of her Montessori certification, one of his teachers undertook these shoes plus my child as a “case study.” As mentioned, my child and his shoes are a part of the historical record. Don’t forget it.

Just like his brother’s. In fact, his older sibling’s signature shoe, which is clearly just one of many mistakes we’ve made. To think that he would consent to wearing shoes so clearly associated with other feet. His feet, they are singular! They demand to be recognized as such.

Hahahaha, oh the perils of mommy blogs/Instagram. I saw these shoes on some mom’s adorable Brooklyn toddler son and couldn’t resist the fantasy. But, as Lila Cerullo knows, the neighborhood rarely makes room for fantasy to thrive. No. To be truly human, we must understand that life doesn’t happen in Clarendon, that we must slash and destroy others’ fantasies about us, that we must devote ourselves to making ourselves in our own image, and, when that inevitably fails, that we must live that compromised life with bitterness and brilliance, a complete devotion to chaos.

Okay, well, he has a point, this is probably some of the worst of neoliberalism right here.

Lila told me that, on seeing the shoes she had designed years earlier made real, she had felt a very violent emotion, as if a fairy had appeared and fulfilled a wish. The shoes really were as she had imagined them at the time

It is a new year, may all of us have the vision and will of a child in touch with shoes of the imagination.

Sarah Blackwood is editor and co-founder of Avidly and associate professor of English at Pace University.