"Oh, we've had these for a while now," though she failed to mention that they had remained in a box, in the closet, under a pile of blankets and photographs.
Shoes have been a valuable asset since their invention. The oldest found were from about 10,000 years ago, but were probably worn long before that. They were first evolved to protect the many tiny bones in the human foot, which has more bones in it than any other part of the body. It's progression eventually brought varied examples of shoes for different terrains and climates. Until the past few decades, shoes were NOT worn by most of the world, though. Shoes were always expensive, as they were for my Grandmother when my Mom was a child. With mass production, the prices dropped and more areas around the world could finally afford shoes. Still, many people nomadic and otherwise, still do not wear shoes.
What is the first thing most people do when they come home from work at night? For me, it's the removal of my shoes. My toes have been cramped up all day and they want to curl and twist, gliding over the carpet, cracking gently at the bends. They stretch and strain, glad to be free of the confined spaces and slide as easily as silk as I guide them over the coffee table before me. But the shoes I wear every day are not my favorite shoes. The ones I'm wearing would have to be my favorites.
Often I find that my "most favorite" of a select item isn't one that I've recently purchased or found or discovered, but the one with the most history. It's that way with T-shirts and that comfy pair of jeans that always fits just right. It's that way with a watch I know I can depend on, a piece of jewelry I can always find, a picture I keep in my wallet that someone wrote their name on. It's that way with shoes too.
My favorites are not a pair of sleek black heels, though I have two pairs I like very much. They're not sneakers or jogging shoes. They're not boots made of suede, or red pumps, or even open toed sling backs. They're not clogs or flip flops, they're not sandals or heels or loafers.
My most favorite shoes is a pair of shearling sheep skin moccasins with a large tear in the left, a big spot of bright blue paint dried on the right. They're dirty and old, and the rubber bottoms are all but falling off. I take these shoes on an airplane with me and change into them when the plane takes off, usually with a couple of odd looks in my direction by the person closest to me. They're also very warm and cozy, but NONE of those are the reason I love these shoes so much. And yet - all of them are.
In 2005 I sat on a window sill in Redondo Beach, watching the dolphins playing in the surf. My legs straddled the window sill. One of my brand new slippers fell off of a foot and landed on the stairs below. I got down from my perch, wandered to the door, and went to fetch my shoe. What resulted was an hour conversation with a neighbor I hadn't seen in a long time, starting out by him asking me why I was coming down the stairs without a shoe.
In 2006 I sat in my bedroom in Gardena on the Skype service, talking to someone more than 5,000 miles away. Though the person I was talking to had no idea, I was completely naked except the tan fuzzy slippers I so dearly loved. They kept my feet warm when everything around me was cold, dark and lonely. In that way, the slippers reminded me of the voice on the other end of the Skype service. That voice made me feel warm when nothing else could.
In 2007 my slippers were lost in a box during a move. I couldn't find them for months, and when I finally did I nearly wept for joy. I had been ruining all of my socks, running around on wooden floors with no shoes on! Not to mention, the cat was still a baby and loved to attack anything that moved. The leather slippers would be much harder to get through with those needle teeth. Somehow he still managed to get his teeth into one and tear a hole in the left foot, though.
In 2008 I painted my kitchen cabinets a beautiful bright blue color. My cat, then a year older, got into the paint and tracked it all over the house. I hollered and yelled, raising quite a fuss of screaming and scaring the poor bugger. He took off into my bedroom, little blue paw prints trailing behind him. When I discovered his hiding place, he had shoved his head into the toe of my slipper like an Ostrich hiding his head in the sand. There was that one little blue paw of his resting on the side of my right slipper. At first I was upset, but then I laughed. For as long as I kept the magical slippers, there would be an existing memory of my silly cat with his nose hiding in a shoe. As I reached down to pick him up, the shoe lifted into the air with his body. He started flailing about, slinging droplets of blue paint around in the closet, all over my high heels, all over me... His head was stuck! When I got the shoe off of his head, he curled up in my arms for the first time in months and didn't move for an hour. I was his savior.
In July of 2009 when my uhaul was u-haul-ed away, I was sleeping in a hotel room in my slippers and trackies (sweats) warm and comfortable, safe and sound with my little cat in my arms. I didn't realize then that they would be one of the only things in the world I would own the next morning other than my memories. But, there I was at that precise moment in time, wearing my slippers.
Here it is 2010, and I'm wearing the same shoes that fell in Redondo, that warmed me in Gardena, got painted in San Pedro, were cat-attacked, and kept me safe in Vegas. When I looked down at my shoes tonight only moments ago, I thought to myself "If only my shoes could talk"... They would tell much better stories than I could ever begin to imagine.
I'll cherish everything and everyone I have. I'll take the good with the bad, the blue paint drops and worn, frayed edges. In the end, it only shows that they've been well loved and had a good life, like the lines around the eyes of an aged woman, or the creases in the forehead of the Grandfather watching the grandchildren play in the park.
I learned last summer never to take anything for granted - it could all be gone tomorrow. I still have my cat, and I still have my slippers. I still have my love and my hope and my dreams. I'll never take ANY of them for granted.
No, not even my favorite shoes.