Monday, November 19, 2007


I picked up Christina's shoes from her yesterday. We met at the Stone Store--I found her in the first aisle and we hugged between the tea and the soup. She told me the story of her shoes, which I was really grateful to hear. She told me that she bought them about six years ago, that they were her first waitressing shoes--she has waitressed in Toronto and Guelph, and though she does so no longer, she still remembers what I used to order at the cafe, even though we didn't know each other even by name at the time. She told me that she and her shoes have been through a lot together--a lot of stuff, a lot of changes. And that although her shoes aren't as beautiful as they used to be, they are still good shoes, and she still wears them often.

Christina's shoes are black, wedge heeled, slip on shoes, with decorative straps that are attached with mismatched buttons (a ladybug and a gem-like, faceted, shiny black one). They have little teardrop shaped cut outs above the toes and below the straps. Her shoes have a beige stripe-like detail that runs between the upper and the wedge / sole of the shoe. On the inside edge the beige has be scuffed away. The soles have wear patterns at the heels and at the ball of each foot. Christina explained to me that her shoes have been repaired many times, that just the other day she sewed on the black button so she could lend them to me.

This morning I did an audio interview for another project, and then headed to campus to return the faulty video camera and other equipment. Luckily I was able to get a different battery and sign it all out again. On the way out the door I noticed that the laundry I should have taken in yesterday was frosty (currently, it happens to be wet all over again). Walking downtown to the bus stop (I have retired my bike until I can address the brake issue), I felt especially cheerful. Something about Christina's shoes and my polka dot dress and orange kind of lifted my spirits. I think my happiness was also a function of finding responses to this project in my email inbox, and being excited by all of this. But for whatever reason, I found myself feeling rather nifty and composing in my mind what I might write about the whole experience.

Christina's shoes seem like they are just about my size. My heels tend to lift out of them, and they, like some other shoes, snap up and hit my feet as my toes lift off the ground. I'm not used to wearing heeled shoes, and it was a whole different way of using my feet and feeling the ground.

Today I felt like I was taking bigger, more confident steps on my morning walk, felt somehow enlivened. I also was thinking a lot about Christina, and feeling somehow closer to her wearing her shoes, feeling like somehow it was a really tangible way for our lives and stories to intersect. And really delighting in not only her willingness to lend me shoes that have been so meaningful in her life, but also in her life itself and the person that she is and our friendship. And, again, perhaps it all sounds false or clich├ęd, but I think it was a lot of what was making me feel happy.

When I got home I had lunch and danced as I was trying to wash dishes. I have been listening to Basia Bulat lately, and am hopelessly in love with her songs. I thought about how I wanted to play the CD for Christina, and about all the times we've danced together. I'm pretty sure I've seen these shoes on her feet on the dance floor before. Christina happens to be a fabulous dancer. And the two of us dancing together is a recipe for much, much fun.

I next set about shooting video for this project. I wore about 15 pairs of shoes and found myself really hurting--I've had a back issue (a herniated disc impinging on a nerve root) for a bit of time, and somehow between the putting on and taking off of shoes I began to really hurt. Afterwards I headed to an appointment, and found the proverbial spring in my step gone. It was more of a hobble. Or perhaps the hobble was internal, but I felt more tired and in pain than happy.

Somehow I felt like I had failed Christina's shoes...I had so wanted to tell the story of how happy my day in them was. Except it didn't turn out that way. But I found myself thinking about how even in the course of one single day there can be so much variation--joy, excitement, spunk, pain, exhaustion, neutrality, impatience, disappointment. So many different things, and so much uncertainty as to what might come up next.

(The river has a frozen layer on the top already--leaves and debris caught in it seem strange in their static-ness.)

I went through the strange cross between snow and rain over the footbridge to the Stone Store, where I had met Christina and her shoes yesterday, and picked up some groceries. I walked to the bus stop and waited. I took the bus home.

I thought about Christina and the story of her shoes, how they had seen her through so many different things. And about how somehow, even one day can mimic the up and down-ness of years. I thought about the clothing I was wearing, and the stories it has--the polka dot dress I bought at a Value Village in Halifax almost seven years ago during my reading week at Mount Allison. My grandfather yelled at me afterwards in his frustration at not being able to find the meeting place we'd agreed upon. His wife thought it was a great find. If I wear it dancing, the polyester has a kind of sweat-memory and it takes several washes before wearing it doesn't re-engage the dance floor smell. And there's more I could tell. Like Christina's shoes, it's seen me through a lot.

Christina told me that she bought her shoes at about the same time that she bought her first plant; that the other day she was looking at her plant and thinking how astonishing and remarkable it is that the plant is not only alive, but doing well. She said that she didn't used to take care of it at all. And how in some ways her capacity to care for the plant is mirrored in her capacity to care for herself. That they've both come a long way. That they are both doing just fine.

I like that objects and things like shoes and plants can be both a testament to and a witness of resiliency. And that resiliency isn't about remaining unchanged or spotless--I don't think that anything emerges unscathed...I think it's more about emerging, or actually just being there the whole time. Christina's shoes are scuffed and worn in places, but have a beauty to them that can't be bought in a store, that doesn't come with new shoes. They carry stories--like all shoes, new or old--like anything, and I am just really glad and honoured that she shared some of them with me. And also really glad and honoured that these shoes that have held so much already, carried me through a day.


Christina said...

i really wanted a dress to go with my favourite shoes. i'd just bought lady bug buttons for the straps and was imagining a pouffy stapless number with a big red bow. oliver and i rode the subway one stop to the value village and after over an hour of hunting we were ready to give up. suddenly this fervour came over me and i started down the aisles running. oliver ran after me confused and laughing- until he found me. i had run straight to a black lace strapless dress that was misplaced in the skirt section. we both stood open mouthed and amazed. it was perfect and almost exactly what i'd imagined. he sewed me a giant red satin bow as i twisted my curls into pig-tail buns. we went out dancing at lees palace and stayed out until four- it was one of the best dancing nights of my life.

the dress no longer fits me and mostly that's ok. but the shoes and the bow and the memory of an ideal remain. my shoes are old now; worn by years of running plates, sweeping floors, being splashed by vodka and bleach, nights of reckless dancing and walking across the humming city streets.

now i wear my shoes to school where fourteen dynamic kids with whom i share the bulk of my life spill their apple juice on them and kick the toes as we fight for the soccer ball.

the shoes love it and i love them for it. it's amazing that we still fit so perfectly.

aislinn thomas said...

christina, your words are beautiful.

Natalie said...

Nice photos here! love those yellow stockings with the shoes and POLKA DOTs!
who knew you are such a creative photographer???
I am totally enjoying the blog and all the new posts.