Growing up means learning to let go of some of your favourite things
It's hard to say goodbye, both in terms of a life lived and boots worn
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My Mom tells me to throw my boots out every time I come home.
We have the same argument every time. She tells me that they're full of holes. I tell her I like the ventilation. She tells me they're turning into Crocs. I tell her I'll wear them until they're sandals. She tells me they're falling apart and scuffed to hell. I tell her they just need a little polish. She tells me that, at this point, polish is the only thing keeping them together.
I've had these boots for seven years. Which means they've suffered through seven Canadian winters, and are cracked and dried from seven years of salt stains. They are hot in the fall, cold in the winter, wet in the spring, and its been years since they've had claim to anything resembling tread. But hey, what can I say – they've got soul.
I was 15 when I first saw them in the store. The black leather gleamed, the toes were stiff and angled, the zippers had not yet rusted. With their military cut and slight heel, they were a world apart from the colourful Sorel winter boots of my childhood.
They weren't the kind of boots that I would wear, but they were the kind of boots that would be worn by the person that I wanted to be. The kind of young women who would go to parties, wear tight jeans and plaid, stay up late and go to concerts. The boots looked like they belonged to someone cool, or at least someone who seemed unattainably cool to my 15-year-old self.
These boots are one of the many things I've bought with an aspirational purpose. There's the leather jacket I asked for in Grade 11, because I liked how a kick-ass character ( Kalinda on The Good Wife) wore one on TV, although it took me two years to get the confidence to wear it out the door. There's the trench coat my Mom bought me in first year university that didn't fit right until I wore it three years later at my first internship. Then there are the things I've bought hoping they would fit a version of me who never arrived. The red jeans, the skirts, the sun dresses. All taken out biannually to be donned in front the mirror, adjusted, tugged, twisted, readjusted, frowned at and then returned to their waiting place in my drawer.
But these boots fit. I don't know what they were laced with but they made me feel unstoppable. These boots went to my first concert, they told their first story on stage, they've travelled, they've worked, they've left home. They've had girlfriends and boyfriends, they've fought and made up. They've crunched leaves, slid on ice and left prints in the mud. Now they're almost done getting a university education.
But what's next for these boots of mine? Now in fourth year, in a reverse Goldlock-ian succession, they don't fit the way they used to. Have they gotten smaller or has the world gotten bigger? They are no longer the boots of the person I want to be, but the boots of the person I am, maybe the person I was. The women I admire are no longer the punk-rock seniors of my high school but the young professionals working interesting jobs. I've gone from shopping at Garage to Banana Republic in an unapologetic bourgeoisie progression.
And, though I hate to admit it, my Mom is right. The day is coming where I will have to give these magic objects the boot. I can see it on the faces of those around me. And in their comments. I've moved from "Cool boots!" and "Those boots are classic Rebecca," to "You've really gotten your money's worth there," to "Don't you own other shoes?" And finally: "Hey, I can see your socks!"
There is no question, they are falling apart – and I can't heel them.
I guess I could buy new boots in a similar style, but it wouldn't be the same.
It's the same feeling I used to get during late nights spent with my brothers at our isolated cottage in northern Ontario . After my parents went to bed, we would go down to the dock and stare out across the water. There, under the stars, we would talk. About the little things and the big things. As the hours melted away, the temperature would drop and my bladder would fill. But I would stay down on that dock as long as I could because I knew that if I left to get a sweater or to pee, things wouldn't be the same when I came back. The moment would be lost, the spell would be broken.
I know I won't be able to recapture being 15 just by buying new boots – and I wouldn't want to. As the spring melt continues, and my socks get progressively soggier with each passing day, I know that the end is coming. But as the moment of parting draws near, I can't help but feel lucky to have had something that's hard to say goodbye to, both in terms of a life lived and boots worn. Who knows what's in store for my next pair?
Those boots will graduate university, get their first real job, lose their student discount. They'll say hard goodbyes and exciting hellos. They will please my Mom, and then inevitably become a source of irritation for her when they too are held on to for too long.
One thing is certain: These boots have had their era and, like it or not, soon it will be time for me to walk in somebody else's shoes.
Rebecca Kutarna lives in Ottawa.