I took Betty into town last Thursday to buy her first shoes. We breezed into Clarks and I proudly announced to the sales assistant (who looked about 12) that my very clever daughter was now walking, half expecting some kind of applause. The 12 year old (who was only slightly bigger than Betty) didn’t applaud, but kindly asked me to put Betty on my lap so that she could measure her feet. ‘Ha ha,’ I thought, ‘You say it like this measuring lark is going to be a doddle’. Sure enough, Betty curled her little foot up into a very impressive ball, making it impossible to do anything with it.
This charade went on for about five minutes, and in this time Betty managed to ruffle up the 12 year old’s hair, chew on a nearby flashing trainer, and fling the measuring machine over her head. Eventually, and just before I was about to give up and go home, my darling daughter gave in and let us get the measurements.
With feet measured, we then went on to discuss whether proper shoes would be appropriate or whether Betty should start with cruising shoes. I insisted that she was ready for proper shoes and so we put them on her to see how she fared. Betty refused to stand up in them and just went crawling off around the shop, leaving a whole array of display shoes in her wake.
The assistant then looked at me as though I was deluded and had made the whole ‘walking’ thing up, and said: ‘I think perhaps your daughter should start with cruising shoes.’ I reluctantly gave in, feeling a bit irritated. No sooner had this exchange taken place, Betty took matters into her own hands, and being there for her mum when it counts, she jumped to her feet, shoes still on, and literally started running confidently round and round the shop, with me excitedly running behind her, trying to avoid the flying footwear, and saying: ‘You’re such a good girl!’ while she dismantled the shop.
I bought the shoes, then I strapped on her reigns an let her walk out into the big wide world – the high street – for the very first time. This was a truly memorable moment, watching my baby’s face light up as this whole new world opened up before her. She tottered along, looking all around her, and her main focus wasn’t all the shops with their brightly coloured window displays and their inviting open doors, but all the MacDonald’s burger wrappers, cigarette butts, and bird shit that littered the pavement.
When I had grown weary of grabbing these unsavoury items out of Betty’s little mitts before she could shovel them into her mouth, and when Betty’s little legs were obviously getting tired and becoming wobbly (making her closely resemble a puppet on a string), I swooped her up and tried to put her into her pushchair. Full-blown screaming and kicking ensued, until I gave in, when I realised Betty was stronger than me both in mind and in bodily strength, and I let her walk again, all the way back to the car, with me trying to control a litter-eating, drunken Betty and steer an awkward pushchair at the same time.