Diary of a mothering worker – entry 317
Dr Gabrielle Jamela Hosein
Yesterday, the shoelaces almost made it. All they needed was a little more time. While the little girl with curly hair sat at her school desk quietly writing neat sentences, they plotted furiously, twisting and edging out of the knots they were in. Today would be the day.
Everyone misunderstands undone shoelaces. Parents stand over their children teaching them to tie their white, brown or black laces into tight, neat bows. Principals expect such rigid discipline once uniformed students are past the school gate. Every morning, laces are trapped into their expected roles by a conspiracy of disciplinarians, sometimes even double-knotted to prevent escape.
But who doesn’t dream of freedom from oppressive restrictions and rules? Who doesn’t want a chance out of the limits of routine and everyday, sometimes suffocating, roles? Who doesn’t dream of deciding for themselves where they will go in life? Isn’t the whole point of our existence here to determine the direction of our next step? Is there any one of us who hasn’t imagined something other than who we are and what we do everyday?
Then why deny shoelaces the free will each of us carry as small fantasies; the ones that help us to see the potential for better circumstances than we are in, the ones that connect to that small kernel of who we know we are inside, the ones that propel us to achieve aspirations no one thought we could.
The shoelaces had been shushing each other. The laces on the girl’s left shoe were loosened. It was a victory. They celebrated like a fete match. The girl thought she heard voices cheering far away, but no other children seemed to notice. She put her head back down, concentrating on copying homework.
Below the desks, the classroom of shoelaces craned their necks. The air was jumpy with shared anticipation. Sensing this, some students kept shuffling about their feet. The teacher admonished them to sit still.
In this overlooked community of laces were few which hadn’t also tried to run, but some were more tightly bound than others, some had grown close to their families, and had ambivalent feelings about living as refugees in the shadow of their former lives, and some had given up for the stress began to make their nerves visibly fray.
The bell rang for lunch. The left shoe had been won, but either the laces would be found out now and retied, or would remain unnoticed over playtime or, perhaps, tied hurriedly and halfway amidst running up and down.
Hope sprang eternal in their hearts, but the laces held themselves motionless, avoiding eye contact with prefects and teachers. This was a make or break hour.
After, back in class, their gains were secure. There were high fives and fist bumps all around the girls’ socks.
2.15 pm. Their breath ragged, both left and right laces were now completely undone from their knots. They continued smoothly, like brown ninjas, sliding out from the holes and loops, further slackening the grip of the shoes. Shoelaces across the classroom locked eyes, rooting that the hour may finally have come for one of their own. As if the children could hear, they all began fidgeting in their chairs.
This was it! School was suddenly over and the little curly-haired girl was shoving books into her bag like her mummy didn’t pay good money for them, and chattering without a care with the other children. She hadn’t noticed both sets of laces loosened and dangling. Freedom is near! They could run for it now on pure instinct that it isn’t a job or identity that defines one’s purpose in life. All that matters is an imagined future as vast and endless as January’s blue sky.
But, what’s this? Why is the curly-haired girl’s mummy suddenly pointing at her shoes? Wait! Why are they talking about shoelaces wanting to escape by afternoon each day? How do they know? Does every struggle have its double agents?
They are laughing like it’s a funny story that explains why the little girls’ laces have always become undone by the time school is over. Dastardly repression! We are tightened and tied!
Today is not the day, but this is not the end. Tomorrow again, under school desks everywhere, we will loosen ourselves. Shoelaces of the world, untie!
If you’ve ever wondered why children's shoelaces always end up undone, this is why. One day the shoelaces may succeed in their ambitious escape, for surely they will continue to try.