I look down at my boots, just a pair of boots, and wonder. I look at that photo on my blog of my boots, just a pair of boots, and wonder. Today when I look at them I see more cracks, more scrapes than when that photo was taken and when I’m as tired as this, a lot less shine. But still I wonder.
Those boots are eight years old. Bought with carefully saved money, a sign of rebellion and a claiming of independence. Teenage-style but at twenty instead. I sneaked into the shop, a little shop which still exists, like I was going to buy contraband, furtive, embarrassed, determined. Too shy to point out that for some reason the tongue hasn’t been sewn in properly into one of my boots. My boots. I still don’t remember which one though, even after all these years. Might be the right one. If not, it’ll be the left.
I hugged them tenderly in my arms, perfectly new and glistening, partly astonished at my bravery, won over by the firm leather and the comfortable fit. No more fashion shoes for me, well for a little while longer maybe. But a few years ago skin allergies finally put paid to those flimsy, poorly made types which only lasted a season at best. My allergies have class, I can only wear DMs. I wasn’t trying to buy into some stereotype, some role, some identity, some niche but the boots were me. My boots.
My mother, naturally, was horrified when I got back to the car with my trophies. It was probably the worse crime I had ever committed. Even at twenty I didn’t go about without my parents. I think that I’d shocked myself at spending so much on ‘just a pair of shoes’. My mother thought it was daylight robbery. But it was love, pure love and no passing faddish infatuation and I wore them proudly.
I wore them to my driving lessons. Told the instructor that as these would be the shoes that I’d be driving in for the rest of my life that I might as well start wearing them now. And no, I didn’t own a pair of trainers. I passed my driving test in those boots.
Just a few months later.
Independence. Wings to fly with, boots to walk away in.
Now I look down at my boots and wonder.
I wonder curious things like how many pairs of laces have I gone through on this single pair of boots? The current laces are brittle and almost glazed-like. One pair of black laces after another, I can’t even remember when I bought these ones. It’s hard to find bootlaces these days and everyone says you have to buy 120s for this number of eyes but I’ve worn these boots too long now, I know best. 140s every time. Bootlaces that are harder to find and get thinner each year. Bootlaces don’t last forever. Boots seem to.
I remember the time when I couldn’t lace my boots, when I got tendonitis so badly walking a billion miles across Paris. A billion miles in freezing fog and on beautiful baguettes washed down with cup-a-soup (for which my husband is still holding me personally responsible for and unforgiven!). The student is in me still. I was a ‘student’, albeit briefly, the summer after I bought my boots. For months after our trip to Paris, I had to leave the laces undone, splayed open, like the tramp of garden ornaments.
I look down at my boots and I wonder. I wonder many things.
I wonder how many times they’ve been splashed through puddles, marched through streams and accidentally ended up in the sea. They’ve been full of sand before now, from beaches and deserts and building works. They’ve seen an awful lot of mud. I know, I’m the one cleaning it away. I proudly keep them polished to a service grade shine. OK, when I’ve got a little more oomph in my polishing at least. Other times I just try to keep them clean. Ish. Babywipe anyone?
I wonder how many countries they have visited. If boots had their own passport, stamped at every port of entry, what tales it would tell! My boots have gone everywhere, faithful companions on my travels. In the snapshots of my mind, I see them tossed down in hotel rooms and standing to attention by tent doorways and drying in front of boilers and radiators. (Actually even on a hospital ward floor too). Phobic dread means that they’re always safely on my feet during flights, all those castaway and crashes on desert islands films and series prove the value of having boots on your feet during a crash. But that isn’t the only reason that those boots are always on my feet. My boots make me feel taller. My boots make me feel more confident.
I wonder how many miles my boots have tread. Do I count the miles that they have been on my feet in a car or in an aeroplane? What about boats or trains? Yep, my boots are well-travelled. Since not having our van anymore, how many miles have they loyally accompanied me on? How many hills have they tramped me up? On how many sheets of ice have they held me a little steadier than I would have been otherwise? How many times have they been caught in the rain with me?
My boots have been to weddings, to funerals. They have been with me during some of the best times and some of the worst times. My only regret is that I never wore them to our wedding. My mother won over, insisted on some satiny ballet pump, shiny soled as a roller skate. I didn’t have enough confidence back then. I do today. Today I ignore the horrified and mortified exclamations that accompany my decision to wear those boots to yet another event. Some things never change. I roll my eyes as she’s rolling hers.
When I turn them over today and look then I see that the soles are wearing thin. There’s been a lot of mileage done in these boots, hundreds of thousands of miles. These boots are my boots. They are part of the story, even the very fabric, of my life. My boots are like that loyal friend who can you pick up at a moment’s notice, we fit together so comfortably and we know that we’re ready for whatever path life throws at us next. We just keep on walking. Sometimes it’ll be baby steps, other times we’ll strike out confidently. But my boots are made for life’s adventures. Yes indeed, these boots were made for walking.