Trying to pinpoint the date when this minor obsession started. Had to be 2007. I was invited to a luncheon at Sally’s. I enjoyed spending time at Sally’s condo, the place was impressive. She had a lot of stuff packed into her gorgeous home (and I love looking at other people’s ‘stuff’). Sally had two matching display cabinets (not antique) with glass on 3 sides, filled to capacity. I could not afford one piece-from either unit. She had some Dale Chihuly blown glass. Dale Chihuly. I had never heard of him, google the dude. Lots of exquisite glassware. Yes I was jealous and coveted some of her pieces. Her glassware made my Waterford look like they were freebies from the laundry detergent box during the depression. I digress before I’m even started.
I wanna say this luncheon was in early June and it was my women’s circle from church. We didn’t meet during the summer but had a potluck to end our year in the spring. I was Parish Visitor for the church so my involvement with a few of these gals was twofold. Many were getting up in years so besides belonging to the same circle I also visited them, wearing my Parish Visitor hat. Since Sally was mentally sharper than me, she was not on my visiting list, but we were good friends. She was on several church committees and very active in the community.
I can’t explain why a stranger was at our luncheon. She wasn’t part of our circle, or a guest speaker as we were really just there to eat and visit. She must have been a guest/friend/relative of someone. She was about my age (young as the group’s average age had to be 80+) and sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. I was fascinated. Full of lust. With her feet. Ok, no foot fetish here, but it was her shoes that had me captivated. (Boredom was alive and well this lovely summer day).
Her shoes were a bit clunky, even chunky. They appeared to be sandals but the amount of bare foot flesh showing through was maybe 25%. The shoes were a neutral color. Realistically they could be worn with shorts, slacks, capris or a swimsuit. Or a skirt I guess but who does that? Not me certainly. Shoes with built in holes. Toes were covered, strap around the ankle, eliminating an embarrassing foot slipping out of my shoe episode. Perfect. It’s really not like me to:
1. Talk to strangers.
2. Inquire about something personal like a clothing item.
3. Fall head over ‘heels’ in love with a pair of shoes. I’m into comfort, not the latest style.
Yet there I was. I gulped and started a conversation with an unfamiliar person of interest. She was nice. And funny. Who knew? But I was just biding my time/growing a set/gearing up to ask about her dang shoes. She said they were Keens, kinda pricey but very comfortable. She even mentioned where she bought them. I don’t remember rushing out of the door as soon as I had all her pertinent information. I hope I said goodbye and got the dish I had brought. But I was on my way to Tradehome Shoes (quite close to Sally’s actually).
There were a couple styles and colors to choose from but really no contest-duh-mine had to be navy. I think Keens were invented to help me survive Michigan. Our winter is long. Cold. Miserable. Snowy. Did I mention long? Very long. But because several styles of Keen sandals cover most of your foot you can wear them further into October and earlier in April, giving me the false sense that winter is finally over or hasn’t started yet. Fool that I am. One of my kids will usually say, “mom, it’s October 17, pack away your capris and sandals.”
Lately I’ve been thinking of a dear friend I lost 10 years ago. Her name was Rosemary and she died of breast cancer when she was 46. She was a member of our church and I started visiting her when she got her diagnosis a couple years before that, although she was decades younger than most of the folks on my list. She had lost both of her parents, was not married, had no children. She was more like one of my kids. I took her for chemo treatments, doctor’s appointments and had her over for supper a couple times a week. She got along famously with the Hubs.
One day Rosemary noticed my Uber cool navy sandals and asked if I would take her shopping for a pair? (She wasn’t doing very well, but these spur of the moments ‘I gotta do something normal’ would hit her and she longed to do the mundane things in life and forget about the cancer ravaging her body for a couple hours. The cancer was spreading like a forest fire during a 3 year drought). So we booked over to the mall and she bought a similar pair to my Keens but in black. She loved them. A couple weeks later she bought 3 more pair which she ordered online. But Rosemary developed a nasty side effect from the strong chemo cocktail she was prescribed. Neuropathy in her feet. She was losing feeling in her feet, they tingled and hurt, plus she was not lifting her feet properly when she walked. She fell at home a couple times and one of her doctors ordered a special brace to fit inside a shoe (an oversized tennis shoe) to give her some stability. No more sandals or rugs in her house. Disappointing but she took it in stride and realized in the big picture, wearing Keens wasn’t worth the effort.
Rosemary insisted I take a couple pair of her new Keens with the understanding ‘when’ she got better I would give them back. She never got better, only worse, with more complications and passed away about a year later.
Ten years later I’ve got a dozen pair of Keen sandals plus a couple pair of Keen shoes for when I finally have to admit winter has arrived and my shoes with holes have to be put in the back of the closet for 6 long months. But my favorite and most comfortable Keens remain Rosemary’s black pair. Hubs had to reglue the wide toe cover that attaches to the waterproof fabric part of one of the sandals. Now I noticed the other sandal has come loose in the same place. What I’ve always found amazing about my Keens is that over a decade of wear, the bottoms (which resemble tire treads) show very little signs of wear. Until now. I’m disturbed and disheartened. I’ve found a crack about halfway across one of Rosemary’s sandals, right where my foot bends. They still make the same sandal, it’s not that. I can buy another pair, the black color on hers has faded a lot. But I don’t want to lose another ‘piece’ of Rosemary. I already broke her coffee mug after 5 years of daily use.
It’s crazy to have such a weird attachment to her shoes, yet I’ve been down in the dumps about the worn out condition of her Keens. She’d be ecstatic they’re my favorites and I’m still wearing them. Of course they’re going to show signs of wear, I’m just being silly and sentimental, yet it feels like I’m letting her down somehow. Love and miss you Rosemary…