To some, The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe is just a nursery rhyme. But to others, she was much more than that, especially to her children. To them, she was Mom.
In 1794, in the faraway land of Sole County, England, Esmeralda was born to Hammond P. Willoughby and his lovely, fair-haired, fair-skinned wife, Estella. Esmeralda developed into the all-familiar Old Woman, who in fact, did live in a shoe, but her tale was neither short nor prosaic.
Her father, Hammond, was a leathery type of fellow—hardcore, brusque—who on regular occasion, worked hours upon hours in his smelly old shoe repair store. He perpetually came home late but always had the time to tell a story or two to little Esmeralda before bed. Frequently, she fell asleep with her father’s fables and the scent of oily shoe polish permeating the room. Perhaps it was that very scent that induced her sudden nightly plunge into sleep.
At the ripe age of thirteen, she was married for the first time, but surely not the last, to Henry J. Cackleberry III, and bore three little chillin's within five years. Henry was a leather tradesman and often traveled overseas where he would sell at top dollar to other tradesmen. “What has my life come to?” griped Esmeralda. “First, I am doomed to be perpetually surrounded by leathery-smelling men and now, my husband is never around!”
At nineteen, she met a handsome young man named Charles Bernard Higginbottom IV and left her husband Henry for what Charles promised her as “a better life.” To Esmeralda’s delight, Charles was a carpenter, and had nothing to do with leather, or shoes. He welcomed his new wife and her three children with open arms and treated the little runts like they were his own. Before long, they popped out a few youngin’s of their own, five to be exact, two sets of twins and a tiny little fellow with abnormally large feet that eventually required the use of special shoes.
But as time went on, Charles began to return home from work later and later along with a sort of Limburger or Parmesan cheese smell about him.
“Charles, my wonderful husband who is hardly around anymore, why do you smell of this awful cheese odor?”
“Esmeralda, my precious wife who doesn’t entertain me anymore, I have taken a side job in a cheese shop.”
Esmeralda soon discovered that her husband lied about the cheese shop and instead, had a fetish for feet and was volunteering massages at the local shoe store in town.
In her mid twenties, Esmeralda once again left her husband for another man. His name was Nathaniel X. Winterfarkel II. Together, they had four more little bumpkins along with the seven that were Nathaniel's from a previous marriage. It was very taxing caring for nineteen children in their two bedroom rickety old shack. "Don't worry Esmeralda, I know someone who knows someone whose second cousin four times removed is a shoe maker but does construction work on the side. I'll have him build a house big enough for us all!" Nathaniel boasted. The very next day he died. And she was left with all nineteen children.
In her panic-stricken state, Esmeralda sent a telegram to her father that read, "Papa, Papa, husband just died -(STOP)- Left with nineteen children -(STOP)- I just don't know what to do! -(STOP)- Esmeralda."
Her father replied back, "Not to worry -(STOP)- Will build you a house big enough with leftover scraps of shoe leather -(STOP)- Papa."
And that's how Esmeralda ended up living in a shoe with so many children with whom she didn't know what to do. And because she had no husband to provide for them, she was left to care for all nineteen children on her own. She cooked, cleaned, and maintained the house. They just barely got by. On most nights, dinner consisted of only broth without any bread. Esmeralda grew old before her time and even though she routinely whipped the children and put them to bed, they remained a happy and close family.
One day, little Laila asked her mother, "Mama, why do we all have different last names?"
"Well, because you all have different fathers, that's why."
"Mama, what's your last name?" asked little Xavier.
"Hmm... I just can't seem to remember."
And to this day, Esmeralda's last name is to be eternally determined because, like her children, she had more husbands than she knew what to do with.