By Martha Joy Rose
I’ve always thought high-heeled shoes were ridiculous. Pretty women teetering on stilettos, inviting bunions, rushing about, that kind of beauty hurts. As it turns out, males in the Persian Empire first wore elevated soles in the 10th Century. The term, killer heels exemplify the fact that warriors used them to grip stirrups while riding ponies into battle. High-heels, as we know them today, weren’t invented until 1954, epitomizing an era when women were viewed as lovely vapid accessories.
2020 was not a good year for shoes. 2021 is not looking too hot either. Social activities have been curtailed. City streets are empty. COVID has presented unique challenges. While some hunker down, essential workers keep our country going. Teachers, first responders, delivery people, and health care practitioners (to name a few) perform the tasks necessary so that schools and emergency services are accessible.
I am a mother whose kids are grown. Under usual circumstances, our family spends lots of time together. We share vacation-time in Florida, gathering in the kitchen- cooking big home-style meals, engaging in loud, argumentative discussions about sports and philosophy. Now, life is weird. We wander around in slippers or even barefoot, wearing pajamas from the waist down, doing business on laptops, and Zooming with each other on weekends.
My daughter lives on the other side of the continent. She graduated nursing school this spring earning a residency in the emergency room of a hospital in Southern California. We have never been separated for more than a few months. Now, we are entering our second year of distanced communication. I mail her gifts. Vitamin packs, including zinc, D, and elderberry. She hustles through twelve-hour shifts. Working conditions have deteriorated over the course of many months. The entire hospital is overwhelmed and understaffed.
As the healthcare system topples around her, my daughter continues to push hard. She tells me about the chaos, the missing PPE, and the hallways filled with people. She is a warrior and I know she went to school because she believes in social justice and healthcare for all. Her uniform includes scrubs, gloves, a visor, and a mask. On her feet are white rubber clogs.
This New Year’s Eve, I was hoping for a new chapter in the story. Surely the release of the COVID vaccine and the end of the current political regime would bring a brighter day. I went to sleep at midnight, waking in the early morning to a group text from my daughter, sent to the entire family. The keys lit up at 6 AM, reminding me that sometimes things get worse for a time before they get better.
She texted: 2 firecracker victims, 4 stabbings, and my friend is intubated with COVID. Then six hours later she followed with, Meth lab explosion, two more COVID, two deaths. Finally, at the end of her shift, with nine understaffed workers in a fifty-bed emergency room, after only two months into her new job, she phoned exhausted in tears.
Optimism is hard to come by right now. I have to remind myself, the women in my family are warriors. As a proud feminist who has passed some of these qualities along, I hope her stamina for social change will stay intact, even in the midst of a crushing pandemic. It is challenging to be optimistic when metaphorically the house is on fire. I set my sites on the future, yearning to hug my beautiful daughter again. Then, perhaps my sense of humor will return, and joyously we can kick up our well-heeled souls once again.
Photo: Shoe credit SPERA
BIO: Martha Joy Rose is a scholar, artist, and activist. She founded MaMaPaLooZa, after touring with her band Housewives On Prozac (1998-2008) and began work on the Museum of Motherhood (MOM) in 2003. The MOM Art Annex is currently in St. Petersburg, Florida with ongoing artist in residence initiatives and exhibits focused on elucidating the art, science, and history of mothers, fathers, and families. Rose teaches sociology at Manhattan College and holds an advanced degree in mother studies from CUNY, GC. Rose is the NOW-NYC Susan B. Anthony awardee (2009), has lectured extensively and served as founder of the Journal of Mother Studies. She has been organizing the international Academic MOM Conference each year since 2005. She is a co-editor of the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press (2018), a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Motherhood (Sage 2011), and her work has been featured in the Mom Egg Review to name a few. She is currently at work on a memoir.