The Absolutely Completely Right Pair of Shoes

We were at a wedding last weekend – seems to be the year for them.

Not a big meringue-dress, smart-car, complicated-seating-plan sort of wedding.

But a small, quiet celebration of two people’s love for one another.

It was in Pallant House Art Gallery in Chichester and it felt very special.

A bit like Night in the Museum without the animals, dinosaurs and historic characters, we had a whole museum all to ourselves

After tea served from beautifully mismatched vintage cups and plates full of pastel iced cakes, we sat under the trees of the flagged courtyard, chatting and laughing until champagne and endless canapés were served in the gallery itself.

And as the notes of a gently strummed guitar wrapped themselves  around us, we wandered through the small, history infused rooms.

I am not usually good at art galleries or museums.

After one room, I find my thoughts drifting towards the cafe or the gift shop or…anywhere else.

But there is something magical when you are the only people there.

Suddenly you have a personal relationship with everything you are looking at. 

Shell – Sussie Macmurray

 I walked, alone and bare-footed  through the historical rooms full of antique furniture, old masterpieces and moder installations, or climbed the elegant, age old staircase made modern by a wall completely covered in mussel shells and velvet.

And  I couldn’t  help thinking that everything I was looking at, knew I was there.

And since, without me, they would be completely unadmired, they must be pleased to  see me..

And as I left each empty room or hallway behind me, I wanted to turn and wave goodbye and say  how nice it was to meet  the picture in an old wooden frame or the piece of antique furniture…….. or the ball dress made out of 10,000 balloons….

Balloon dress by Susie MacMurray

But despite being surrounded by priceless works of art and clichéd as it sounds, nothing could compare to the beauty of the  bride.

Because nothing can touch the beauty of happiness.

And as she stood, serene and beautiful in her simple 40’s style dress, her sparkling eyes matching the deep blue of the the flowers she refused to put down ( hard to see in black and white! )

 I walked up to her.

” You look amazing,” I said. ” Your dress is perfect, the sun is shining and the food is delicious. Is it all as you dreamed it would be ?”

She smiled.

“Yes  it is, ” she said,  “we just wanted to share today with our closest friends.

But can I tell you the story of my shoes.”

I grinned.  

There is nothing I like more than collecting other people’s stories.

” I would love to hear it,” I said.

And so the bride began the story of ” the absolutely, completely, perfectly right pair of shoes.

” You remember,” she said, ” how last time we met I was telling you that I had found everything, the dress, the flowers, the hair-do. And that the only thing I missing was the right pair of shoes?”

I nodded.

The search for the right pair of shoes had been long and, last time we met, fruitless.

” Well, in the end, I gave up.  I found some shoes that were OK, not perfect, but OK. And since there was only a week to go until the wedding and since I had hunted in every shoe shop in Chichester, Brighton and much of London, I figured they would just have to do.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like them.

It was just that they weren’t quite right.”

” Shoes are never easy,” I said, supportively, ” they are the glitch in every plan.”

She laughed and carried on.

” So anyway, last week, with 2 days to go until the wedding, I was walking to the station from  a friend’s house in Chichester, when I passed this tiny, very chaotic, second-hand shop.  Half the clothes were outside, hanging by the road.

And that’s where I found them, on the pavement, the shoes I had been looking for, for all these weeks.

My perfect pair of shoes, waiting there beside the road.

They were the perfect colour, the perfect style and when I tried them on, they were the perfect fit.”

We both looked down at her shoes and smiled.

” That’s a lovely story,” I said.

” But it’s not finished yet,” she said. ” because when I took them off and went inside to pay, I noticed something else. The name inside the shoe, look.”

And balancing on one leg, she pulled off a shoe.

Inside slightly worn but still clear was the word  ” Candena.”

” Is that your favourite shoe designer or something?” I asked.

” No,” she said, ” but it’s an important name to me because it’s my mum’s name. I’ve never heard of anyone else called that. Who calls their daughter Candena! 

Lovingly she slipped the shoe back on. 

” My mum’s passed away,” she said, her eyes glistening “and I know it sounds stupid and I know these shoes might not look special to anyone else, but it feels like they are her wedding present to me. Like somehow she is here , wishing me well.”

I looked at the absolutely, completely, perfectly right pair of shoes. 

I looked at the absolutely, completely, perfectly beautiful bride.

” It doesn’t sound stupid,” I said, ” it just sounds true.

And perhaps that’s what made the artistic treasures of Pallant House so special that day.

It’s not so much about how things look but about what they once meant or will mean to someone.

It’s about the stories they are part of and the history they will still make.

Our past is what forms us.

And if life is about anything, it is about finding the absolutely, completely perfectly right pair of shoes when you least expect it.  

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