The Shoe Project


Shoe Story 88: Steps to the Life

by Aya Mhana

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My heels were slim, but they grounded me. My whole life changed as I balanced myself in these shoes—my wedding shoes, gray with a bright, shiny design.

I was forced to leave Syria so quickly that there was hardly time to catch my breath. It’s not easy to leave your home with only a few suitcases. I decided to take my wedding dress and shoes with me, even though the dress was so heavy that I had room for nothing else. I had no room for memories of my family and my life. But I wanted to celebrate our wedding as soon as we could in our new country.

I left Syria because I wanted to live with my husband, who loved the smell of flowers, not fighting a war with so many victims. He refused to join the army, so he escaped to nearby Lebanon.  But Lebanon was already difficult, even for its own citizens. So I couldn't follow him. Many countries would not accept Syrians after our crisis. I spent my time at home waiting for a chance to live alongside my husband, and wishing for an end to the war.

We heard that Canada had opened its doors to people who could not survive in their own country, and it accepted us in just 20 days. When we arrived in our dream country, we celebrated our wedding and started our new adventure. 

But even when it's warm, I feel cold.
Even when it's crowded, I feel lonely.
Even when I'm rich, I feel poor
Because nothing here looks like our homeland.

I spent eight months counting the days and waiting to be part of the fabric of Canada. But now I can say that I have had a lot of achievements here. With four friends, I established a music  band, and we have performed at different events. I started learning English and I'm meeting new friends.

My brother promised that he would visit me. It was touching that he would consider moving here, to add to our family and our happiness. But he passed away in an accident, just five hours before his flight to the United States and then to Canada.

I felt like an old tree, ready to drop my leaves in the fall. I had lost everything, all at once—my homeland and my brother and my previous life. My brother had lit me up with hope, and when he passed away, I thought that light would never shine again.

But this old tree is becoming green again.

I'm trying hard to do my best because I have another soul inside me—my daughter. I don't want her to become a victim of my sadness; she is not guilty.

There is nothing I can do to bring my brother back. I found the strength to survive this tragedy, especially after I spoke to my mom. She told me that God gives and God takes away. She is a great believer who supports us instead of asking us for support. That little beat inside me helped me make a difficult but beautiful choice: to keep going until the end because life never stops. Once you give up, there is no more.

My daughter will not replace my brother, but she is a gift. She reminds me that whatever happens, we can always adjust to challenges. She reminds me that we can find happiness in a new reality. So beside these pretty wedding shoes that changed my life, marking a start and an end to many things, there will be my tiny little daughter's feet to ground me, too.

Other Shoe Stories from Session 10, Calgary:

87: Cocoon Shoes

88: Steps to the Life

89: My Slippers are My Best Friend

90: Magic Mehri

91: Her Shoes, My Shoes

92:Uptown Funk Shoes

93: My Inherited Shoes

94: Shoes Inhabited by Memories


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