When a Shoe Store Clerk Went From Hesitant to On-a-Mission for My Daughter
My husband and I have been married 10 years and have three beautiful daughters. Our middle daughter, named Lamp on my blog, was born with limb differences on all four limbs. As you may have guessed, this means her limbs are different. She’s a congenital amputee on her upper left arm, she has a shorter right arm with a small hand-like appendage and her legs are both shorter than typical with two different sized feet.
A couple years ago, an “ah-ha” moment in regards to footwear also led to a sweet exchange from a stranger.
One Friday afternoon, we were in the car running errands. Just Lamp, the babe and I. Lamp was, as usual, talking talking talking talking and I had sorta tuned out, as we parents sometimes do. Perhaps she was already talking about ballet, I really don’t know, but seemingly out of nowhere, she said, “Mom I want some ballet shoes.”
My mind snapped back to the present and I heard her. And I started thinking about it.
Ballet shoes. They’re soft, they’re cute, they have one little strap and I bet she could get them on all by herself.
Wow. Why hadn’t I thought about this before?
Shoes are a tricky thing in Lamp’s world. First, she’s a big girl now and finding shoes she can put on and take off herself has been Mission Impossible. Additionally, shoes are often ornamental for her. She wears them in short spurts because her feet are her hands — she uses them to color, play and even eat with. She really can’t have her feet covered too often, so they need to go on and off quickly. We’ve actually gotten away with just wearing socks a lot, but she’s a girl and I believe the desire for pretty shoes might be in her DNA.
We happened to be close to a local dance shop, so I called and inquired about sizes. Then I said, “I know this is a strange question, but some retailers will sell two different size shoes. Is this something you could do?” He told me no, and I understood. It was a long shot.
We were at the store about 10 minutes later. “Hi — so I’m the woman who just called you about toddler-sized ballet shoes. So my daughter isn’t in dance class, but I’d like to see if we could buy these just as regular shoes for her to wear.”
You could see he was just sort of taking her in, assessing her, and somewhat slowly walked back with us to look at shoes. He wasn’t impolite, but this was obviously not his typical customer. And I’m used to it; it was no big deal. We looked at shoes and sizes. In my mind, I was thinking black ballet shoes would be the perfect choice, but he didn’t have black in the smaller size, so we went with pink.
We tried on several pairs to get the right size for both of her feet, and we finally got the right combination. I asked him the price — $19 for each pair. But since there’s no “right” or “left” in ballet shoes, she would have two sets of new shoes. I was really excited.
Lamp wasn’t excited.
“Do you like them? Look! They fit and I bet you can get them on yourself. They’re so cute… don’t you like them?”
“I don’t like them.”
“I don’t like the color.”
There were a couple other options on the wall. Pink sequined slippers, pink glitter slippers and gold glitter slippers. I asked her if she liked any of these.
She pointed: “I want those ones, Mom.” The golden ones, as she called them.
The store clerk didn’t think they carried them in the smaller size, but he went and checked. Lo and behold, they had one pair left in the smaller size!
Now Lamp was excited — smiling, laughing… a complete turn-around. But he didn’t have them in the larger size. Dang it.
At this point, I noticed the store clerk was now fully engaged. His initial hesitancy was gone; he was on a mission. He checked to see if any of his other stores carry the size. Then he came back with a smile on his face and announced, “We have it! It was the display size.”
She put them on and it was like magic. She was doing her happy dance, laughing, smiling. I was smiling, and he was smiling. It was a win — a great, big, limb-differences win. Cute shoes, yes. But also another big-girl thing she can do all by herself. A thinking-outside-the-box solution — that Lamp thought of herself no less — that works really well.
I took them up to the register to pay for the shoes and the total came to $25. “Now that’s not $19 a pair,” I said.
He smiled. “I know. She was just too excited.”
Another win. Not the free shoes part. The smile, the good feelings and the doing-something-a-little-extra-because-he-can part.
That’s not just a limb-differences win; that’s a people win.
Follow this journey on This Little Miggy Stayed Home.