4/11/14: Bidding adieu to my Parisian street shoes

At the ripe old age of seven weeks old, my little pair of Parisian street shoes is about to enter a graceful retirement.

Well, perhaps graceful isn’t quite the word. They look pretty beaten up. “Well loved,” if you want to put it nicely.

I bought them in February with the intent of having some reliable all-around footwear to last me through the year — or at least through the warmer weather at the end of the semester. “Ils seront parfaits au printemps, mademoiselle,” said the saleswoman at the store, nodding smartly and commending my choice.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Spring has come to Paris, but amid verdant public parks sprouting anew and tiny white petals swirling in the fresh seasonal air, my little shoes have taken a turn for the worse. The soles are torn up and battered, all traction has completely disappeared and their exterior color is only a vague hint of their original storefront appearance.

Our relationship is ending far too quickly for my liking. Still, I acknowledge that I didn’t exactly go easy on them.

These shoes have been faithful company on virtually all of my trips in and out of France, hell-bent-for-leather sprinting through airports and train stations, marathon walking adventures (one of more than 20 kilometers), daily bike rides (one absurdly long one in pouring rain) and, of course, those nights out on the town. All without so much as a pitiful whine or complaint. I look at them now and say soberly, “Dudes, you could have said something?”

I regret that I never offered them the proper attention and gratitude they deserved. Think about it — when is the last time you stopped for a moment to really appreciate your shoes? So, to you, dear little ankle boots, I dedicate this blog post.

Thank you for being the perfect fit in that store — the only pair that was any match for my size 9.5, wide feet (do Parisians just not sell large-sized anything?!). When I started the walk to take you home and heard the classy “click, clack” of stylish boots hitting the European cobblestone sidewalks, I knew we would get along.

Thank you for being the ideal neutral color to accompany every pair of pants, every dress and skirt, every combination of worn-out utilitarian study abroad clothes I could throw on haphazardly in the morning to get out the door in 10 minutes and make it to class on time.

Thank you for sticking it out with me through those long nights out in hot, crowded bars with beer-slathered dancefloors. I don’t want to know what those floors felt like. And I’m sure there was trash and dog poop all over the path as I walked home. I cringe when I think of what you had to go through.

Thank you for humoring me as I just had to veer off the road on that rainy bike ride in Montpellier to march through a sodden meadow probably replete with manure and who knows what else to visit the horses on the other side of the fence. You shrugged it off when one of the horses accidentally trod on my foot as I was stroking him. You didn’t even judge me as I squealed for five straight minutes in delight at the sight of them (or were you judging…?).

Thank you for being the stable footwear I needed in difficult situations — for example, dutifully cooperating when I was hopelessly wandering alone in the middle of Rome at 1 in the morning. And thank you for tolerating my mad dashes all semester as I was predictably late to everything, including (but not limited to) class, planes, trains, meetings and friend gatherings. You weren’t remotely designed as running shoes, and you still tried your best.

Yeah, I know, they’re shoes. But last I checked, offering a “thank you” or two never hurts.

I don’t think I’ve had such an attachment to shoes before. Maybe it’s because they’re from Paris, the capital of fashion, bien sûr. Maybe it’s their global perspective — they went to seven countries in those seven short weeks. Maybe it’s because they remind me of experiences, of highs and lows of this semester, of even the smallest, yet significant, study abroad memories.

I’m wearing the little boots this evening, for what I swear to myself is the final time. I look down and flex my feet, feeling their familiarity, how perfectly they have molded to my soles. I take the left shoe off and see that the bottom has actually cracked straight through at the ball of my foot.

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I laugh. Sarah, I tell myself, there’s a difference between being frugal and being ridiculous.

Alright, little guys, you “did good.” I can cough up 20 euros to replace you.

Like every material aspect of life, shoes are ephemeral — but they work hard for you, and anyone or anything that labors for your benefit deserves a bit of love. I hope that’s a lesson I won’t forget.


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