My son has a fondness for Crocs. To be crystal clear, when I say “fondness,” I really mean “a whole hearted dedication so deep it would make Mario Batali genuflect in his honor.” Nary a shoelace nor a strip of Velcro has brushed against my son’s foot for longer than an hour since his little legs first learned to toddle. If it isn’t made of brightly colored, squishy rubber, it isn’t for Jude.
Our tale begins on a blustery, early December day in New England. For some (unknown, and in hindsight, absurd) reason, my husband and I decided it would be a good idea to take our five children shopping at an outdoor outlet mall, during the Christmas shopping season, in single-digit temperatures. Approximately 12 minutes into our adventure, we realized what a ridiculous idea this was and decided to abandon our outrageous venture, potentially never speaking of it again. (Sorry, honey.) A plan was hastily put in place, and we ducked out of the tundra into the nearest storefront to regain feeling in our extremities before making a run for the car.
As the frigid wind swept us into the store, Jude’s eyes lit up as if one of the Seven Wonders of the World sat before him. I followed his gaze. Lights shone from the ceiling. Angels sang. And there they were.
The most garishly bright, amazingly purple Crocs I had ever seen, sitting atop the clearance bin.
My 3-year-old ran for his dream shoes, arms outstretched like lovers running into each other’s embrace across the perfect sands of the tropical beach I wished I were sitting on.
I gave my husband the side eye, knowing we would not be leaving this store without a new piece of rubber shoe-wear. Those things were bright. What would the world think of a little boy in bright purple Crocs?
“You sure, buddy? You don’t want to look around?” I asked my son.
An incredulous look. A look that clearly said, “Do you see the glory that is in my hands?” He had never been so sure in his life. He was in love. Who was I to argue with that?
We walked out the door with what would become Jude’s $4.99 legacy.
A few days later, I was working the holiday shop at my older children’s elementary school. I set up my little shop on the stage in the cafeteria, full of trinkets children could buy for their families and friends. Jude acted as my tiny sidekick, stocking the tables for our shoppers. As I crouched over a box of picture frames, I heard from behind me: “Is that boy wearing purple Crocs?”
I bristled, and slowly turned to see a group of fifth grade boys coming up the steps to do their shopping, their eyes all trained on Jude’s feet. As I braced myself to defend my little boy, Jude confidently strutted over to the group.
“Yup! These are my cool purple Crocs!” he announced proudly, jutting his foot out for the group to admire before spinning in a triumphant circle.
A few seconds of silence passed before one of the boys responded.
“Those are some really cool shoes. Can they make you jump really high?”
The rest of the group broke into smiles as Jude leaped around the stage, showing off the magic of his amazing purple Crocs.
As the day wore on, this same scenario occurred over and over again. Each time a child commented on Jude’s amazingly bright, not so “boyishly” colored shoes, his response was the same. Confidence. Unabashed joy. Not a single child responded to him in a negative way.
By the end of our week at the holiday shop, Jude had developed a fan club. As the grades filed into the cafeteria to get their lunches, he sat on the staircase leading up to the stage as class after class walked by, giving high fives to “Jude with the Cool Shoes.”
If my 3-year-old can have this much confidence, why can’t I? I thought to myself. Take the leap out of your comfort zone. You can do this. With the confidence of my 3-year-old and his purple Crocs in my mind, I applied for a position I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t get. I bought a pair of shoes I loved but was too intimidated to wear. I cut 16 inches off of my hair and dyed it with purple undertones to match the Crocs. I was brave. I was confident.
And I was happy.
Ten months later, on a hot September day at the zoo, Jude’s purple Crocs met their demise.
Their soles were now as smooth as river stones, and a giant tear spread across the front of the toe. Jude’s famous purple Crocs could be worn no more.
I posted a lament on Facebook. Friends mourned the end of an era.
We tried to move on with our lives. Jude tried on a pair of sneakers. Our neighbor looked at him skeptically and told me that Jude looked funny. Jude went barefoot.
The next day, I was at a consignment sale with a friend. From across the lawn, I saw them. Their purpley-pink hue shone bright among the sea of laced and Velcro-ed shoes. His new love.
As he stood at his first day of preschool a few days later, I heard a tiny voice from behind me.
“Is that boy wearing pink Crocs?”
Jude beamed with pride.
“Actually, I think they are more purple…” his mom’s voice answered.
That’s right, I thought. And they are pretty fantastic.
Oh, and that position? This is it. Writing for Boston Moms Blog. Thanks for the confidence, Jude with the Cool Shoes.