These Boots Are Made For Walking

Last week, after dropping Babygirl off at daycare, where she might as well live since it costs us as much per month as it would to rent her an apartment, I went to my friendly neighborhood cobbler with two pairs of shoes and a heart full of hope.

One pair of green Fluevog heels the cobbler nodded at. Yes, I can fix those, he said, squinting, and wrote me a bill for $12. Those beauties cost $275, though I didn’t pay for them: a group of my friends pitched in and bought them for me as a birthday / engagement present — in 2007.

The others were beautiful brown suede La Canadiennes. Comfortable, stylish, warm, and hand-sewn by well-compensated, fairly treated Canadian elves, they had everything going for them. My Dream Shoes. I had longed for them with such intensity that I did everything but stand outside their window with a boom box. At last, purely by chance, they appeared on sale in my size at a store across the street from my apartment at the beginning of 2008. I snatched them up, feeling less like I had spent money than that I had won some kind of prize.

As I bought them in the off-season, I didn’t really get to wear them until the fall, specifically Election Night 2008. Perhaps you remember that evening? The suspense, the relief, the partying until dawn? I don’t, really, because I made myself so crazy leading up to the election that, when it came, I buckled under the pressure, succumbing to a panic attack that started at about 5:30 PM and didn’t abate until 10:00, no matter how many times I threw up or took more Xanax.

One of the times I threw up was on those boots. “Can you clean them?” I begged my cobbler at the time, a Russian on Atlantic Avenue who had seen it all. “I’ll try,” he grunted. I felt like Inigo from The Princess Bride, bringing Wesley’s corpse to Miracle Max to see if it could be reanimated. And sure enough, when I returned, my Miracle Max had done his job: all traces of the panic-induced vomit had been magicked off and my boots were as good as new, ready to take on Prince Humperdinck and two terms of Obama’s presidency.

I went to winter weddings in those boots, and to funerals, to Christmas celebrations and New Years extravaganzas, and to the office: first at one job and then another, where a coworker was so impressed she bought a pair for herself. One evening my boss forgot that she had a fancy event to go to and I gave her the boots off my feet, those boots, and went home in her hiking sandals.

When I bought those boots, my father was still alive.

But the boots could not last forever. As you have probably guessed, they have finally expired. Even my new Miracle Maxes could only shake their heads at me. They were DOA, and not even mostly dead: all dead. Nothing could be done. Give them one last hug and send them to their rest, a city trash can on Flatbush Avenue. RIP old friends.

It is preposterous to care this much about a pair of shoes but I’m kind of in mourning. They were my Velveteen Rabbits! Except that they also, in so many ways, symbolized and carried me into adulthood. I can buy another pair of La Canadiennes — indeed, importing from Canada is hot right now — but I can’t recapture the story that came with the originals.

So: do I replace them with an identical pair? Do I branch out? Wait til I’m less sad to decide? “They’re only boots”? Sure. Tell that to Nancy Sinatra.

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