For the first five years of my life as a mom, I resisted buying light-up shoes for the kids. This is harder than it sounds, frankly: fully fifty percent of the shoes for young boys are the kind where the soles flash whenever the kid takes a step. I’m not sure why I have always had such an aversion to shoes that do this, except that perhaps I see them as belonging in the category of totally unnecessarily frivolous things that did not exist when I was young and which seem like the by-product of an affluent society with way too much time on its hands (I put glow-in-the-dark diapers into that category, too).
But then all four of us went shoe-shopping last spring, and Daddy took Luke to get sandals while I helped Matthew try on his own shoes. When we rejoined forces I found that Scott had chosen a pair of light-up Lightning McQueen sandals for Luke, who liked them very much. I could not bring myself to be the killjoy in that particular moment, so my long proud streak of resisting light-up shoes was over. And yes, I’ve made my peace with that.
Last Friday after dinner, in fact, the four of us went out to the front lawn to play soccer. Even in mid-October it was just warm enough to be able to wear sandals, and as we all ran around the lawn in the damp of evening, Luke’s sandals made little flashes of red in the darkening light. I watched him, my big littlest boy, tracking the ball over the lawn and kicking and laughing and doing his best to get the ball past his older brother the goalie. There were clouds gathering over the hills and a definite chill in the air and the promise of fall, of the passing of sandal weather.
Next spring, these sandals probably won’t fit Luke anymore. And there will come a day when light-up shoes with a cartoon car on them will be passé, childish, kids’ stuff. I’m getting a hint of that already with Matthew, my kindergartener, who is looking and acting older every day. It’s hard, to be honest; part of me wants them to stay kids forever. And I think it’ll be even harder to see Luke pass that threshold: Luke, my baby, my youngest boy.
That’s why I loved seeing those flashes of red light on Luke’s feet as he scampered over the grass on an evening in October. As the day slipped into night and the sun gave way to darkness, his sandals blinked on and off like fireflies on a warm evening, like the kind of memory that you remember and savor even after the summer has passed.