New shoes.

This showed up on my Twitter feed last weekend:

skinner (@elizaskinner) “Women over 30 — what’s something you wish you had known in your 20s?” 18 Jan 2018, 11:33 AM. Tweet.

owl, very expensive (@vxpowl) “Cultivate relationships of all sorts with older women. Less surprises as you fill their shoes, less anxiety over leaving your old shoes behind.” 19 Jan 2018, 7:49 PM. Tweet.


I was a latecomer to the ball.  When we first met, Joan moved slower and prefaced stories with “stop me if you’ve heard this before” – aware that the string of memory was thin and unreliable. She was committed but tentative when in motion. Such is age and aging.

But the shoe she left to fill! Over the weekend, I had the privilege to attend her memorial service. She was a strong woman of a certain ageless intellect, curiosity, and strength of will, living with the conviction — “it was the right thing to do.”

  • Joan had an FCF, a First Close Friend because she refused to say “oldest” friend. And in the brief time of our acquaintance, she made me feel I counted, I might be numbered as “Close Friend” too. And I felt special.
  • She dropped some pop music knowledge by singing all the words – multiple verses and the chorus — to Depeche Mode’s cover of Route 66, (1987-ish) and her son’s friends were stunned. Her cover of “mom, ” the old and stodgy, was blown.
  • Working voter registration, she was excited about the poetry slam happening that night, too.
  • Haiti, 1983. She held a toddler who was amazed or frightened by the middle-aged foreign white woman. And as she held him, he had an accident on the front of her shirt. Oh well. She took it all in. It happens.

And right things:

  • She was an early adopter of recycling and reusing. No waste. It was the right thing to do.
  • She believed in the importance of activism and civil rights. While living in Atlanta, Georgia, she volunteered as an assistant in the office of Coretta Scott King.  It was the right thing to do. (And whoa! I would’ve liked to hear the stories.)
  • She brought the activism home. She lived in a tony suburb of Milwaukee and while pushing a stroller, she knocked on neighbors’ doors to solicit support for affordable housing. Doors slammed in her face. And I wonder at the pain she must have felt to learn more about her neighbors than she wanted to know, but she persisted.  It was the right thing to do.

And Joan was a fierce alto and so am I!

And Joan remained bright-eyed and curious — of a certain generation yet not defined by generation or age.

And I want to grow up and be all that too!


Back to that initial tweet: “Less surprises as you fill their shoes. Less anxiety over leaving your old shoes behind.”

And we are surprised at the size of the shoes Cinderella Joan left when the clock struck midnight but filling new shoes and leaving the old behind is the right thing to do.

Thank you, Joan.