Today I am in mourning. A beloved shoe has become ill. It is soon to leave both me and its sister (the paired equivalent)--which as any sane person knows, that means I will lose them both. There will never be another black, patent ballet flat, with a sole made of what I always assumed to be the rubber from tires to satisfy my needs. A shoe so religiously worn will soon be placed in the bin of memories. These shoes have lived a life of wealth, miracles, tragedy and discovery. When I needed them, they were there for me. And I need them today more than ever.
I recall our first day together. I spied you at SAX'S 5TH AVENUE. I looked at your glossy skin and asked the Sales Gentleman for a size 8. You were Donald J. Pliner and I am Tracy. We immediately connected. The year was 2000. I had started my first company; a production company. I am a woman working with Union workers, climbing in the rafters of churches and walking the streets of New York building sets for live events. When my eyes first saw you my brain immediately thought, 'function, yet femininity. I can carry my little pink purse, and wear my prettiest dresses, yet with the treads on these shoes, I will never lose my balance. I will never feel like I am walking on the gravel, my feet will never feel tired.' DJP and I co-existed in this grand life from 2000-2009.
Sadly, though, my life co-existing with these very special ballet flats didn't remain like that. In 2009 I changed my life and career, only to experience the greatest level of poverty I could have ever imagined. I sold my blue patent, mary-jane, Manolo Blahnik's for $75 on EBAY. I sold practically every high-priced piece of clothing just to pay for rent and food; but there were three pieces I refused to sell.
I wear a pair of flowered-shaped diamond earrings given to me by my Parents, an heirloom. My shearling coat. This purchase was made after a major break up with a guy (I can't recall if it was David or Eddie that broke my heart this time). This coat was then referred to as the "I don't need no man to buy me no coat, coat." And the last piece was these shoes. No matter what the level of my finances, my pride in footwear, helped me to maintain my sense of confidence. Sometimes I would think, "Yes, I am applying for food-stamps, but my Donald J. Pilner shoes are fabulous". In times of crisis and what could have been deemed tragedy, I suitably maintained my dignity wearing those shoes.
2012 my Husband became ill. For 90-days he was hospitalized. I walked hospital miles in those shoes. Never a blister and oddly, my feet never stunk. Sometimes, I would come home just to change my underwear and not remove my DJP's at all. Together we got my husband well.
February of 2013 my Father took a spill. Mother called and asked me to come to Florida to be of support. I packed a small bag, placed my DJP's on my feet and by 2 P.M. that same day we were headed to the airport. A month later I returned to California, wearing a pair of running sneakers thinking I had safely packed my DJP's. It was upon unpacking that I discovered I had left a shoe in Florida. This is the first time we had ever been separated. My Father's recovery was a blessing, but my Parent's had now traveled to New Jersey (it was April) and I was informed that the shoe wouldn't be sent to me until November. Seven months. What would I do?
So I tried. On my menial budget I tried to substitute. I wore DANSKO's, Converse, flip-flops. I started to wear heels with dresses (dresses that ballet flats were more appropriate). But my arches hurt. My feet were smelly. My heels were calloused. A part of me was missing. In January of 2014 a package arrived at my apartment in California. I am not sure if I can properly convey my level of emotion, however the song by Etta James "At Last" I think adequately signifies my feelings.
"You need a good pair of black ballet flats" I told my best-friend, when discussing the staples of a wardrobe. She said to me, "you are always well dressed, no matter what the circumstances" (and believe me the above paragraphs only outline the range of turmoil my life has been through). She later told me that this advice had saved her feet, many a night. I grinned and thought, 'Thank you Donald J. Pliner. Your ballet flat is a staple and a lesson every woman needs to incorporate, adhere to and share.'
But I think the greatest triumph of all is before me today. In June of 2015 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I confidently continued to think, "at least I have the shoes to accommodate." And then tragedy struck. Following my MRI appointment I felt a pinch in my right toe. I looked down to see a crack. A crack! And then as I was walking I felt another pinch. A pinch! Once home, I investigated what was to be defined as my greatest shoe fear. My beloveds were coming to terms with the millions of miles and emotions I have experienced over the years. My shoes are dying. An era is coming to the end.
My surgery is on September 18th and my recovery I hope will be quick. Because I am now on a mission to walk another million miles, if only to walk into SAX'S 5TH AVENUE with the strength, confidence and fortitude that I held in 2000 to purchase another pair of black, patent Donald J. Pliner ballet flats with treads that I am convinced are made from tires!