I never cared much for shoes. They are utilitarian and prosaic. I was always a construction boots and running shoes kind of person.
As a kid, we were a one pair at a time family. At some point, I had a pair of blue sneakers my Mom bought at Sears. Only the dye ran when it rained, and stained my feet blue too, and Mom was furious. I remember a big argument when we tried to return them. I don't remember caring either way.
In my twenties, I feigned interest in shoes. Women judge a man by his shoes, or so I was told, so I made a passing effort to be contemporary. But it was fraudulent. I destroyed whatever was on my feet. I remember a concert I played in, where I met my friends after, and they laughed that they knew I was coming on stage, because they could hear me shuffling from behind the curtain, destroying my single pair of decent loafers.
Eight years ago, I bought a pair of shoes, out of necessity, that I hated. We were in Montreal, in the heart of winter, and surprising only to me, it was frigid and snow-packed. We had set out to explore the old city, at zero degrees with fresh, deep powder all around, and my sneakers were not up to the task.
The only shoe store that was open was a fashionable place. It's hard to overstate the disdain I had for their offerings. But I needed boots to complete my journey, and settled on a pair of light brown, ankle-high boots, with a flat, square front and fur lining. They were the least objectionable, and promised to at least keep me warm and dry.
But they were sort of shiny, unconscionably expensive and the absolute antithesis of everything in my soul about what kind of shoes should be worn by a serious person. But I wore them about town, and they fit, and that was enough.
When we came home, I put them aside, with the intention of never wearing them again.
A couple of years later, we moved to Philadelphia and experienced a horrific winter. My construction boots and sneakers were again not up to the task, and in desperation, I returned to my Montreal boots, overly stylish as they were, to assist me in cleaning the snow from my driveway. They fit, were warm and no one could see them through the drifts.
Over time, I became quite attached to those boots. I thought perhaps they gave me a certain panache, and even though I was no longer courting, they had charm. I liked the way they looked. I liked that for once, when I walked down an aisle, people would look first at my shoes, and nod, rather than seem startled and look away. I started wearing them regularly.
Today, they are a wreck. I didn't care for them sufficiently, took them too much for granted. The leather is cracked, the laces in tatters, the soles no longer with grip. Soon, they will have to go.
Eight years ago, I walked much of Montreal by myself in these boots. My wife was newly pregnant with triplets, and as exhausted as a human being can be. Pregnant with three girls who are not with us today.
I believe my journey with these boots is over. I'll miss them.