These boots came into my life a semester, a house, a marriage, another house, and a year ago.
My sister-in-law has narrow, little feet; we call them flippers. I have wide feet; we call them floppers.
I remember walking into my parent’s foyer and seeing these boots on the staircase. I’m not good at asking permission, but I think I got out “whose are these?!” as I was putting my floppers into them.
They called to me from across the room the second I walked in; at that point, ownership had already been defined. I was smart enough to keep that knowledge in my head at that point. Turns out, they were temporary housing for my sister-in-law’s little flippers. She brought them to my parent’s house when she and my brother came to visit because her flippers were swimming in the toe box that could park a Fiat.
Out of the kindness of her heart, she offered them to my mother, thinking they might be a better fit for her. I believe I remember my mom asking me if they looked “too young” for her to wear. I immediately and adamantly replied yes.
They were already on my feet, and to be honest, the question was irrelevant. My floppers had found their new home. I have a hard time finding shoes that fit well, so when I do, the deal is done. Even Danskos are too narrow. The images that come up when you search for wide shoes on Zappos is frightening. Expand that search to the worldwide web and it’s even more upsetting.
These boots were the color of a deep, dark honey when we first met, a magical combination of canvas, leather, rubber, and brushed gold that shimmered ever so slightly. Enough style to be “cute” with an outfit, but not stylish enough that it looks like you tried to be put together. Just my type.
The shaft of the boot hugs my skinny ankles, not too much room and not too tight. Most importantly, my toes feel a sense of freedom, safety, and comfort in the darkness of the toe box. No pressure on either side, no contact from anything that doesn’t resemble a gentle whisper passing by on a breeze. My toes can wiggle with happiness, expand with excitement, and curl with frustration; they can be their full selves in these boots.
I wore these boots on my first date with my husband—cute, without looking like I tried too hard. We walked our dogs on a trail that would lead us to buy a house and eventually to a spot in the rose garden where we made promises we couldn’t or wouldn’t keep.
I wore these boots to Whole Foods, Grocery Outlet, and Trader Joe’s. They walked me to the baking aisle so I could get supplies for pancakes on Sunday mornings. They kept my feet dry at soccer games and on walks with our dogs through the woods. They took me on long, meandering, contemplative strolls through the neighborhoods near our house as I wondered how I ended up with a life framed by a white-picket fence. They never once judged me, and they never once interfered with the tears that flowed freely down my face.
I’ve been unkind to these boots. They’ve been tossed aside, worn in the mud, thrown in piles of shoes, left outside in the cold, and burned by the fire. No matter what, though, they always welcomed my floppers when it was time to put them on again. These boots walked me out of my house on a Tuesday night and were the only shoes I had when I left that house and that marriage behind.
They continued to hug my feet and kept my toes warm those lonely days away from the man I loved. Eventually, these boots helped my heart heal, step by step—through parks, on trails, alone, and with my dogs.
I’d love to see the thoughts I’ve had with these boots on. I’d love to know the feelings of my heart as I took one step and then the next, each one carrying me further away from the life I’d known, but didn’t feel like mine and one step closer to the unknown.
These boots got old about a year ago. The golden shimmer is gone. They’re wrinkled and stained. The rubber on the heels have been worn down, and now they click loudly when I walk. Each vibration of sound clicks off another step in a world that never stops turning, no matter how much I wish it would, even for just a day, maybe two.
The patina is familiar. There’s the drop on my right foot where I spilled cream cheese frosting from my 34th birthday cake my mother-in-law made me and the drips of coffee, carelessly sloshed out of my cup as I ran late for an MRI. The suede holds fast to particular moments in time.
I found another pair of these boots on eBay so I’d never have to say goodbye to the comfort they provide. Funny thing is, I never wear them.
They don’t quite feel like home.