Made For Walking

Nik bought me a new pair of boots for Valentine’s Day. Doctor Marten’s, for the detail-oriented.

This isn’t necessarily significant if it were coming from anyone else (I mean me, not Nik… she’s very generous). But for me to have new boots… well, it’s a thing. To set up the significance you should understand that this year we decided to have a “theme” for our Valentine’s Day gifts: We gave each other things that we knew the other would never buy for themselves. In fact, we made it a requirement. So she couldn’t get me any video games or underwear or hats and I couldn’t get her magazines or shoes or perfume. It was a fun exercise.

So why wouldn’t I buy myself boots? Because I had a pair of boots. Doctor Marten’s as a matter of fact. But when I say I had a pair of boots I mean I had them. My parents gave them to me for Christmas when I was either fifteen or sixteen, I can’t remember any longer. But let me tell you, whatever else I got for Christmas that year has long since been used, broken, discarded, lost or given away. But not those boots.

I went into a shoe store last year looking for something else… a sweatshirt or jacket or something. It’s not important. But being a shoe store, the salesman’s eyes shot right to my feet to see what I was sporting. His eyes widened when they saw my boots. To fully understand you have to realize that after fifteen years these boots were worn. I mean, it’s not like I drug them out for certain occasions: They were my freakin’ boots man and they’d been to at least thirteen states, survived a motorcycle accident, lasted through high school, college, trade school, camping trips, every actual job I’ve ever held, marriage, everything. I’d never once polished them so the toes were worn and scuffed and grey. The soles were worn to 1/2 their original height (more in some pressure spots… I measured against the new pair) and the insides were a perfect and exact mold of my feet. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Through all that, I still had the original laces. With the plastic end caps fully intact.

So this salesman… more like a kid really. He stares at my shoes and says something like, “Those look well-worn.” I cocked an eyebrow at him.

“Son,” I began, asserting an air of wisdom and authority, “I’ve had these boots since you were in short pants.”

I’m paraphrasing here. I don’t actually talk like my grandmother. But the guy was suitably impressed. Rightfully impressed.

So yeah, I got new boots and Nik sweated about it for weeks. It did fit the gift criteria: I would never have replaced my own boots. But would I accept new boots? Nik asked Gin for advice. Gin was skeptical. She didn’t think I’d go for it.

When I peeled off the paper and saw what she had gotten me, I grinned. “Sweet! New boots!” I immediately took off the old pair and put on the new. Nik tried to ease the blow by saying we could take them back or exchange them or anything else I wanted to do with them. I shrugged and left them on. I threw my old pair into the back of the closet.

They were good boots. They were my boots.

But now I have a new pair.

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