Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Adam mentioned that he would like to lend me his hiking boots when I spoke with him some time ago at the Kyoto Now rally. The other day he left I overheard Ben leaving a message for Adam that he had found a pair of boots in the back of the car and was wondering if they were his. They were these boots! I brought Adam's shoes along with me to Oakville to wear at some point over the holidays. I decided to wear them today.

Adam told me that his hiking boots have traveled all over with him, that he has walked in them long distances and many places... and it shows!

Adam's boots are falling apart in all sorts of places. They look very sturdy at first glance, and they are sturdy, but they also happen to have rips and tears hiding all over the place. I think they are quite beautiful.

When I put Adam's boots on, I was struck by how sturdy they felt, tears and all. My feet felt really well supported. And while they were a bit large on my feet, it wasn't in a way that was problematic or comical. Just a bit bigger than my own shoes.

Walking in Adam's shoes, there were aspects that were very particular and specific to his shoes. Mostly I was aware of a stiff part of his boot right where the laces began at the top of my foot. I could feel it each time I took a step. I also like the look and feeling of his shiny silver insoles that insulated his boots.

As I walked, I could only see the tips of his boots sticking out from my jeans (which I sometimes roll because they are kind of long on me).

In the morning I did tided a bit of the residual mess from Christmas dinner...there wasn't a lot, really, just dishes to put away. In preparation for our usual boxing day visit with Grandmitch (a good family friend, who is like a grandmother to family likes to make up names for people), I typed her a long letter. We've kept up a correspondence since I was a kid, but I haven't written her in ages, and really owe her a letter. Her eyesight hasn't been so good lately, so for sometime I've been sending her type-written notes-- I often send her 8 pages of size 36 pt font. This letter was 16 pages long. I had to engineer an envelope to get it all to fit.

We all headed off to the East end of Toronto. It was super squished in the car. We had trouble fitting the shoulders of 3 adult children in the back seat. I had a bit of trouble putting on Adam's shoes as we left...I think that all the sitting down lately (from traveling, etc.) has made my back a bit more stiff and painful. The rest of the day, I didn't bother doing up Adam's laces, which made the process easier, though perhaps far less authentic.

In the car, we each had our own distraction. I used to think this was pretty sad, but I guess it's just become a fact.

( A soon-to-be-felted snowflake.)

We stopped at Harbourfront first. For years we had a tradition of going to the zoo on boxing day--admission used to be free, and there was a walk lead by zoo keepers on the back of a truck with megaphones. Each of the animals along the walk were given special holiday treats during their usual feeding times, and we used to delight in watching their reactions. It was fun, and also very very cold. We haven't gone the past few years, either because of the distance or the need to get up so early, or just lack of enthusiasm. Last year we went skating instead, and we did the same this year.

At Harbourfront, what is a pond in the summer is an artificially cooled rink in the winter time. Being there brought up entertaining memories of when I worked at the Harbourfront summer art camp, and used to roll up my shorts to wade in the pond and help the kids during their canoe lessons.

My dad tied up my skates for me. I've always preferred the way he ties them up to anything I could do, but now it's almost necessary having help just because of how my back has been. So I waited while he wandered a bit first, and then came back and declared that the only way he was going to lace up skates was if we went inside where it was heated. So we did.

My dad did a good job, as usual, but it happened to take a very very long time as he decided that the shoelaces needed to come out of my skates and everything be entirely re-laced. I told him that his propensity for precision is sometimes an impediment. By the time my skates were on, he still had to put on his own, and already Zach had been on the rink for half an hour. My dad told me that I should go ahead, which I did, and got about halfway around one lap of the rink before the Zamboni came out and we all cleared off.

At this point my dad came hobbling out of the change room with his skates on his feet. He was visibly uncomfortable, and obviously frustrated. Grumbling, he sat down, unlaced his skates and demanded that I pull them off his feet. I was a bit afraid of tumbling backwards onto the ice, but didn't. My dad never made it onto the rink. He said that his skates weren't too small, but just aren't very good. I think they are too small. They were awfully hard to get off his feet.

("Pull! Pull! Don't fall onto the ice! Pull!...")

So my dad went back to the car, and Katie took her skates off, and I waited for the Zamboni to do it's thing, as I was determined to skate around at least one full lap, which is about all I ended up doing.

My brother and sister and I never learned how to skate properly. Zach looks the most comfortable on skates. He has no fear. He likes to go as fast as he can, even though he doesn't know how to stop. My sisters technique is to hold on to whatever is closest to her. Last year it was me. The entire time she repeated, "don't let go, don't let go." This year I felt like I couldn't risk being pulled down by her, so Katie stuck to the edge. I just move along awkwardly and hope that no little kid happens to fall directly in my path. This happened once before and my reflexes saved me. I don't know if I could repeat it, but I jumped over the kid. This year all the little ones were skating circles around us to the Christmas carols that played over the loudspeakers.

We left and headed to Grandmitch's. I tucked Adam's shoelaces inside his boots and wore them that way. When we got to her retirement home we each carried a component of the meal we brought to share with her. I got was in charge of the mincemeat and the butter tarts. Grandmitch lives on the 5th floor, but we took one look at the elevator and decided to take the stairs. We came right at their lunchtime and there was a line of elderly women with canes that they have been known to use at weapons in claiming space on the elevator. So, five flights later we got to Grandmitch's apartment, and unpacked our picnic style lunch.

It was nice to spend time with Grandmitch and her daughter, my Auntie Jo-Jo. We talked about many things: Cockney rhyming slang, accents, my dad's growing up. I remembered visiting family in England when I was young (we no longer have any living relatives there). My dad's voice would change, and he would take on the Yorkshire accent that he apparently had as a child. I've noticed the same in my mom's voice when we're in Missouri, and to a certain extent, I notice it a bit in my own. My dad said that he thinks we take on accents when we're in a place because of a perhaps unconscious desire to be understood...and I would say to belong. It was interesting.

Even though Grandmitch's hearing and eyesight isn't what it used to be, she still kept up with much of the conversation, and at one point, when my dad asked what she wanted (expecting, I imagine, that she might want some more wine or turkey or cheese), she answered, "a young man." I don't know if he even heard her, but I did, and it was nice to see that she still has her sense of humour.

Coming home, we all somehow felt exhausted. Even so, my dad agreed to get off the highway and drop by Mari's place of work so that I could return her shoes to her. We got there and I found that the store was closed. I felt badly making my family take the detour, but we were all a bit too tired to make much of it, I think.

At home I helped my mom clean up and took a nap. It was really hard to get out of bed afterwards. I felt like Christmas had drained me entirely and I wasn't sure who I was anymore. I watched the last 15 minutes of "Everything is Illuminated" with my family, which made me want to read the book again. I had dinner, and thought about heading back to Guelph.

My day in Adam's shoes was not unlike the one I spent in Mari's. Both their shoes are obviously well-worn, and much enjoyed. I loved coming across all the little tears and rips that were hiding in Adam's boots. It was like finding hidden treasure. I had a conversation with a friend today about how broken things have a special kind of beauty. I think it's a kind of wise beauty--it's true to the world. And definitely genuine. It's the kind of beauty that's found in realizing that perfection isn't necessary--or even so desirable, really. This is a relief, and moreover, touching...and, I think, disarming.
I wore Adam's shoes on a day that felt a bit draining, and challenging, but also held lots of fun, and lots of reconnecting with good friends. They were there on my feet during a lot of that up and down, even as I was distracted from their presence. I find myself thinking now about how well-worn shoes are faithful and gentle witnesses. I appreciated them being there.


Zachary said...

Thanks to your blog people can now deduce that I was wearing that outfit two days in a row.

I linked your blog to my facebook so people that know myself as well as you can find it. Hope thats ok with you.

aislinn thomas said...

Don't worry--I do the same sometimes as well (and there are others like me). Nothing to be ashamed of :)

And yes, I'm always happy to hear about people passing along the link. Maybe it will mean more shoes...that would be swell.