walking in hannah’s shoes (soLs)

Sunday morning I woke up, stretched, pulled on layers of exercise clothes and realized I’d forgotten my shoes. My options were orange moccasins or knee-high brown boots. Not exactly conducive for an hour + walk. And then I remembered —  Hannah, my daughter, wears the same size shoe as me.

Yes. Hannah is ten.

Yes. Her shoes fit me.

Lucky for me, even though it was barely light, I heard Hannah in the bathroom. I caught her  before she made it back to her bed. I gave her a hug and asked, “May I use your gym shoes?”

She nodded, eyes unopened, and stumbled back to bed.

I pulled on her shoes and slipped out the front door. I was aware of the foreign shoes on my feet. The fluorescent green shoe strings kept catching my eyes, surprising me the color was flashing from my feet. My foot wiggled a little, loose in some spots, tight in others. They were heavy, much bulkier than my lighter-than-air running shoes. But I was thankful to have them. Grateful for my walk. Glad Hannah was willing to share.

And then it hit me, this might be how Hannah feels.

We adopted Hannah nearly four years ago, when she was six years old, a kindergartner. It may come as a surprise to many of you, but for the last ten weeks most of my writing life has been devoted to writing about Hannah and Stephanie. I’ve nearly filled one journal and have another “on deck,” ready to go. I’ve written more about the girls than I’ve written blog posts, Choice Literacy articles, or on Celebrating Writers (which is due at the end of this month). The topic of my daughters and their adoption has absorbed my writing life, in fact, it has almost been a mutiny!

I write to figure things out. Ten weeks ago I was compelled to write about Hannah and Stephanie. Memories and stories and questions and those things that prick and pull at the shadowy edges of my conscience. So, I’m looking, in my ordinary, everyday life for ways to understand them, to see them more clearly.

And then I find myself in Hannah’s shoes. This literal task of walking around in her shoes, forced me into taking a figurative walk in her shoes. Hannah’s life changed completely when we adopted her. Family was defined differently. Her role in the family changed. And for the first time, she was able to find who she is — not who she had to be, nor who she thought other people wanted her to be — but who she really is, at the core of her rather remarkable heart. For four years we’ve been catching glimpses of the real Hannah. If we blink, we miss it. Lately, though, this remarkable little girl, with a servant’s heart for others, has been staying around for more than a heartbeat. She’s finding herself, getting comfortable with who she is and what family means.

I’m glad Hannah was willing to share her shoes. Even more, though, I’m grateful she’s decided to trust us enough to become her real self — not the person the world has told her she should be, but the person she was made to be.

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  1. Such a great perspective on looking at how your daughter must feel. I hope that you are able to compile your writings about your daughters into a book, or that your writing about adoption and your daughters spurs a fiction story. I find that when you are nudged (or in your case, compelled) to write about something, that's when truly great writing happens. Good luck on your writing journey! 😉

  2. I can only imagine all that you have been able to process and discover through devoting writing time to thinking about your daughters. I appreciated how this slice shifted from being light, such as thinking about the neon laces, to more serious.

  3. Ruth – this is beautiful. I love the way the figurative and literal sense of walking in her shoes comes together her. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to hearing more posts about you and your daughters.

  4. I've read this 3 times. I just love the literal and figurative of walking in Hannah's shoes. It's so important that you are writing about them, reflecting on them. I loved the whole next to the last paragraph as you described Hannah and her “servant's heart for others”. She sounds like a beautiful child….

  5. Reading this put a smile on my face as it began and ended with goose bumps sliding up and down my body as I finished. So much love for family in these few words. You are amazing!

  6. Precious. Uplifting. Patient. These words came to mind as I read this post. You are able to see the real Hannah because you choose to look for it, just like you look for the best within student writers. Thanks for modeling this.

  7. Ooh, I love the way you made the sharing of her shoes represent the sharing of her true self. It's wonderful that becoming a part of your family has had such an impact — on her and on you!

  8. Ruth, a masterpiece on both literal and figurative levels. I was awaiting how you would describe walking around in her shoes (physically — because we all know it feels strange to wear someone else's) and then I was even more eager to see where you'd take us as readers figuratively. I love that you're writing to make sense of your kiddos and that Hannah is staying around for more than a heartbeat. I'm sure it takes time…but how could she not in a family like yours? Blessings :).

  9. Oh! How sweet! You are truly blessed, and so are Hannah and Stephanie. I totally understand writing to think, and I get why you have been writing so much about your girls lately. You are pouring yourself out to learn exactly what they need from their mom. What a good mom you are!

  10. This is quite wonderful, Ruth, that you are writing to figure some things out about your girls & who they are. I don't know the circumstances of the adoption, but I know something about adoption. Both my brother and I have 5 adopted children, me two (as you may know from my posts) and him three. Now they are all grown wonderful adults, etc. I hear your figuring out of Hannah clearly and loved that you wrote through the literal stance of wearing her shoes. What a surprise that you realized it and made the connection. Loved every bit you said!

  11. Wow, she is so lucky to have parents like you in her life. I love how you wrote that you allow her to find out who she is. Isn't that what we all want and hope from the people around us, especially our parents? I think that it's wonderful that you've been writing about your two daughters. I agree that I write to figure things out as well. That's one of the things I love about writing.

  12. I love this. I often tell myself I'm going to write things down about my children, and then I don't. Hopefully the thousands of pictures will spark me. What a blessing children are, and how beautiful that we can be a blessing to them as well – no matter how they join our family.

    And I hear you about the shoes. My almost ten year old's shoes fit me, too.