When times are tough, I sometimes find myself in a half-crazed state repainting a room. Invariably I’m in over my head, imagining I’m Joanna Gaines, meanwhile slinging paint on the ceiling and dripping it on the carpet. Having already perfected (or marred) all applicable rooms, barns, and offices in my immediate vicinity, I decided my next trauma-project should not involve paint.
The next-best option was to head to the garage with Aunt Marita for some much-needed reorganization.
We’ll start small, we told ourselves as we selected the nearest set of cabinets by the back door. Inside the first cupboard lived 6 coiled snakes ready to strike, which actually turned out to be a not-so-scary mess of extension and bungee cords.
After sorting through dozens of cupboards filled with mousetraps (boring), tape measures (boring), and extension cords (boring-er), we came across a cabinet whose contents made us gasp.
We opened the latch and inside the cabinet was a museum of footwear. There were boots in all varieties – hiking boots, work boots, and lots and lots of cowboy boots. Some were tall, some short, some dirty, and some beautiful with intricate leatherwork and stitching. All of them were my dad’s.
I slammed the door shut like there was a monster inside. My initial reaction was: let’s give them to Goodwill.
Fortunately, the voice of reason (aka Aunt Marita) encouraged me to think about it. We took them out, looked them over, and decided to clean them up.
I rinsed the dirt from a black pair of cowboy boots with turquoise sides, and a childlike part of me immediately regretted it. These were Dad’s boots, and it was his dirt that he had walked in. I wanted to stick my hands down the drain, grab the muck and pack it back on.
As I watched years’ worth of trail dust washing away, I was taken with the peculiar sensation that I was embalming a part of my dad. Cleaning his boots became an unexpected, kind of spiritual, preservation of him.
We polished each pair with soft cloths. I hugged them and kissed their toes. I held them to close to my chest, closed my eyes and breathed in their leathery scents.
How many miles were walked in you? Where did you go? What sort of adventures did he take you on? Tell me your stories! I begged.
Whose feet will fill them next? Perhaps mine or Jake’s, or my own kids’ someday. But for now Dad’s boots rest peacefully- shining and awaiting their next set of soles.