Warm, fluffy moccasins.

When I was 5 years old, my Amma read me this magical story. It was from an expensive book with big, chunky pages — part of a larger collection of fairy tales. I remember snuggling in bed on warm summer nights and asking for the same book over and over again. The story of Cinderella and her evil stepsisters. Amma read in her lilting voice, and my eyes would grow wider as she approached my favorite part. “Then the fairy godmother waved her wand and poof! A pair of slippers appeared on Cinderella’s feet. Beautiful, dainty glass slippers,” she’d finish with a flourish. I always made her go back and read that line, after which I would sigh with pleasure and let the story lull me to sleep.

And so, since the age of 5, well-told tales and well-cut shoes have fascinated me. The narrow beginning, the curves of the middle, the graceful arch rising high before ending in a heel. Shoes and stories are alike, or so I’ve always thought. Pumps and peep toes, espadrilles, and sandals. Even the modest sneaker and the lowly slipper bring out the groupie in me. And so, my shoe shopping expeditions were pretty much stereotype fodder. See, I couldn’t just pick a pair out of a busy store display. Instead, I hemmed and hawed, walking back and forth, trying on colors and shapes and styles. I’ve almost made it to the register before shaking my head and looping back to the racks again. And I’ve spent many a dusty hour rummaging among shelves because I knew I’d fall in love if I looked long enough.

Because shoes and stories are quite alike, I fell in love a lot. First with multiple pairs of perfect shoes and finally with a man. Tall and brilliant, he had an easy smile and the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen. I battled long flights and jet lag just to drive to the end of the street in his lipstick-red Corvette. He was a surgical intern then, and I was in the last year of med school, so most of our dates were moonlight walks by the hospital. One evening he introduced me to clog shoes; I fell in love some more and knew he was the one. We courted in the summer of 2005 and married just after my 23rd birthday. A blushing, young bride, I was pleased as punch with my dapper husband and my growing shoe collection.

Those were the golden, carefree years. Putting on red heels and dancing away into the night. Running down the beach in springy sneakers. Rain boots in summer and leather boots in winter, holding hands under a pale moon, our shoes clicking in perfect rhythm. Then came children and mortgages and every color of chaos. The heels hid in the back of the closet, snootily displaced by arch support sneakers.

Days blended into months, and 16 years later, here we are. The children grew like weeds, and there hasn’t been peace since that 30 minutes in 2015 when they napped at the same time. We’re older and more tired and definitely more set in our ways. But somehow, that’s only made us closer. I get him and his eccentricities; he gets me and mine. And while we’re our own persons, there’s so much of one another we’ve adopted. He enjoys eating at my favorite restaurants, and I enjoy half-listening to him ramble on about cars. We own chipped coffee mugs we’ll never throw away and love sharing gossip like nosey old biddies. Over the years, we’ve collected inside jokes and petty hurts, and a hundred little things that form the fabric of our lives.

There was a time when I craved change. Absolutely needed it. New places to go, new people to meet, new shoes to wear. In hindsight, it wasn’t the experience I was seeking but the novelty of it all. Why stay here when I could be elsewhere? A part of me searching through the dusty racks of every shoe store and life path I could find.

But, with 16 years and counting, I know better now. There’s no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Romance doesn’t happen like the movies say.

True love means trusting enough to put roots down. The pot of gold is the privilege of stability and sameness. The big prize is finding a warm, wonderful partner. And for me, it is coming home to a husband whose love is a thing of poetry. He’s the rock I’ll always swim to if I ever lose my way.

After 16 years of marriage, such certainty soothes and nourishes. And because shoes and stories are rather alike, such certainty fits like a pair of warm, fluffy moccasins.

And no dainty glass slipper can begin to compare.

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