July 25, 2010 - 9:05pm -- swingbug

Several years ago, I found myself walking through what counts as the only department store in my hometown with my mom.

“I want to buy you a pair of shoes,” my mom announced. I looked down at my ratty once-white Keds.

“What’s wrong with these ones?”

“Nothing is wrong with them.” My mom is the queen of diplomacy. “But it doesn’t hurt a girl to have more than one pair of shoes.”

While I catalogued the list of shoes I had aloud, starting with pirate boots and Keens and working all the way down the black velvet pumps I wore to prom and not a day since then, my mother caught my elbow and steered me into the shoe department. She nudged several pairs of shoes in my direction that fell in the “casual but stylish” branch of foot apparel. Have you ever noticed that stylish shoes are, as a rule, never shaped like feet?

I was dutifully poking leather something or others on a shelf when the unthinkable happened. I glanced at the clearance rack and there... I fell in love with a pair of shoes. I know, they say romance is dead, but here I was instantaneously smitten. On the rack in a hapless pile of the leavings of many ransacking women before me, I found the perfect sneakers. They were pink. They were suede. There were three of them left, and one fit me. Not one pair, you understand – one shoe. I plowed through the pile and eventually came up with a trill of triumph and two shoes that were very nearly the same size (a 7 and a 7.5 - damn close enough). I’m sure Mom would have rather had me in a nice pair of leather clogs, but the clean shoes were on my feet and the dirty Keds were stashed away in a box. After 30 years of the exasperating chore of shopping with me (and I am exasperating to shop with; I fully own up to that), I think she knows when to choice her battles.

And me? I was dancing in my new shoes. They were comfy. They were bouncy. And for some reason, the fact that they were Pepto Bismo pink tickled me silly.

These shoes - and they are stellar sneakers, really; several friends have said – have been everywhere with me for many years. They’ve commuted to several jobs and traveled as extensively as I do. Up and down Main Street U.S.A anyway, which anyone with tell you puts some mileage on a pair of shoes. They ran with me through the park on zombie mornings, helped me wash diapers, and were likely spit up on more than once. They safely saw me through the poltergeist that did in my dishes and the Dishwasher Incident of December 2008. They were the there the day I found my pants, and by now I bet they not only know the way to the closest Starbucks, but can order my latté for me too.

And like all of us, they’re starting to show some wear.

Visiting my mom last summer, she looked at my feet. “Maybe you should consider washing those.”

“I just did last week.” I looked down at my little pink friends. Truly they weren’t as pink as the once were, but I don’t put a whole lot of stock in appearances.

Picking Luke up from school is a rainstorm this past winter I trudged through a puddle and had an instantly wet sock. Closer inspection revealed a rip where the toe meets the sole (I’m pretty sure it was the size 7, but the sizing label became illegible long ago).

They became good-weather shoes after that. That rip though... Well, it’s gotten a little bigger. You could push a dollar coin through it now. The white parts won’t come white anymore, even with an old toothbrush and some strong detergent on the case, and the fabric itself is brittle. They’re to the point now that I feel that it’s getting close to inappropriate to wear them to work.

Today, while walking through a shoe department with my husband, I saw a sale sign, heaved a sigh and slipped off my pink sneaker and tried on a new shoe.

The new shoes are good shoes. They are. It was not love at first sight, perhaps, but I think they will serve me well. They’re both the same size; that will take some getting used to. And sadly they are not pink.

I can’t quite bring myself to toss the old ones. I think I stash them on the floor of the closet and label them “gardening shoes” for now. I have trouble with good-byes. But tomorrow, I’m going to lace up my new sneakers and show them the way to work (and Starbucks).

Best foot forward, and all that.