What was my favorite children’s story?


Cinderella. The Rodgers and Hammerstein version from 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren. (The fact that I still remember her name says a lot about how much I’ve grown up since.) To me, she was way more relatable than the super sparkly Disney version with her hotdog and hamburger bun-shaped hairdo and her impossible Barbie-sized feet.

Lesley Ann’s TV version was the real deal. Each year it reran, I’d sit transfixed on my living room floor in my PJs and bunny slippers waiting for our fairy godmother to take us to the ball. Not so much to fall in love with the handsome prince. My nine-year-old romantic fantasies were pretty much satisfied each year on square dancing days in coed gym class. On a particularly nimble days, I managed to get to John McKenna during “girls’ pick” before the rest of his adoring throng. Other days, I got Ferdinand. But even though I couldn’t remember his last name (Why would I need to? Did he even have one?) he made me feel special. The other girls could do-si-do with John or Dave or some guy cool enough to use his initials because even his nickname would be dorky. I danced with the only Ferdinand in the whole school, possibly the whole state!

Of course Cinderella’s handsome prince was a catch and all, but to heck with getting swept off my feet, I was all about the glass slippers. And what I really wanted was having those Cinderella shoes on my feet. At the time, you see, my shoes were not a good kind of special. And wearing daytime footwear made out of anything less flimsy than industrial grade cowhide—-anything called a slipper instead of an oxford—-would’ve been the stuff of fairy tales. I was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy, mostly affecting my right leg. Not enough to put me in a wheelchair, thank goodness, but enough to sideline me in gym class (until square dancing days) and make girly shoes a non-option most of my life. Thanks to the orthopedic wisdom of the mid-60s, I wore a left-pointing shoe on my right foot that attached to a knee-high brace, theoretically forcing my pronated leg to straighten out and walk “right.” By middle school, I was allowed to ditch the brace and the ortho shoes in favor of saddle shoes, or any style with rugged laces and stiff soles. So, back then, my Cinderella story featured me somehow out of my clodhoppers, slipping into Keds, loafers or sandals, and partying with the pretty girls. Dancing daintily in a non-clodhopper dress.

I did, eventually, get my own fairy tale. During the height of the Earth Shoe craze, when clunky, more ergonomically correct footwear was all the rage, I found my prince. And by the time the updated, inclusive, PC Cinderella movies came out for “girls like me,” I didn’t need to watch them. I was enthralled with my forever after, planning my wedding, and picking out the cute but sensible Mary Jane shoes I’d wear under my gorgeous, dream dress.