I’m a firm believe that shoes can tell you a lot about a person. Some people prefer their footwear to be 100% practical and choose to own just a pair of work shoes and a pair of not-work shoes. That has never been the case for me. My shoes fall into categories such as “black, high-heeled work shoes,” “black, ballet flat work shoes,” “black casual shoes,” and then go through the entire ROYGBIV spectrum and you’d understand my shoe closet. Notice that I said “categories,” meaning there are often several pairs that fit into each heading.! (In China, since closet space are severely lacking- by which I mean non-existent- it would be more appropriate to say that you’d understand my shoe *piles.* I have one stack by the front door, consisting of the most-often worn shoes, which my ayi carefully arranges twice a week, and I promptly rescatter. Then, in each of the three bedrooms I have other piles, just depending on where I have space to spread them out. And then finally, in the office/gym, I’ve kicked off both pair of running shoes, which, thanks to my ayi, end up lined neatly by the door.) Yes, I realize I have a bit of an issue. I’d like to blame in on all those hours spent working in a shoe store to put myself through college. This English degree didn’t pay for itself And, while I do believe shoes tell a lot about their owners, I am a bit concerned what my collection says about me. Obsessive? Lacking in shoe store will-power? Slightly unhinged? I’d like to think “fashionable shod.”
But, even with dozens of shoes to choose from, my weekend go-to shoe choice is a pair of black All Star Chuck Taylor’s. They’ve been my fallback for probably five years now and have treated me well. I can easily throw them on with a pair of jeans for a Saturday trip to TianFu Square and People’s Park or rock them with a corduroy skirt as commuter shoes to and from the consulate.
But, China can be rough. Rough on shoes, that is. When I buy a new pair of black Chucks, I generally expect them to last a year. By the end of that year, they definitely show their age, with scuffed up rubber toes, peeling rubber sidewalls and a heel that has zero tread, often with holes to replace the missing traction. A mere nine months into our China stay, my Chucks have bitten the dust. A full three months short of their life expectancy, this evening they are getting chucked (haha!) in the trash bin outside our apartment door.
I always feel an odd sense of sadness when I throw away a pair of All Stars, a bit like throwing away a photo album or a letter from a friend. They are the shoes that get me around! The pair that will cease to exist this evening started its life in Washington DC, getting one last tour of the monuments and museums, before embarking on a trip to the other side of the globe. Since landing in China (and yes, they were on my feet when we touched down in Chengdu), they’ve walked countless miles around the city, helping me gain my bearings in this ever-changing crush of construction and seeing me through the growing pains and steep learning curve of a new job; they’ve trekked up a miniature Great Wall and down a muddy mountainside. These Chucks have taken me home for a post-Christmas R&R in Idaho, from bowling alleys to hockey games and to western restaurant after restaurant. They’ve been to the markets of Bangkok and the beaches of the Maldives.
(Never do I feel bad throwing out an old sweatshirt or a pair of jeans whose time have come. I don’t hesitate to get rid of a toothbrush, a stretched out hairband or a pair of socks that have seen better days. But shoes- there’s something sentimental about a well-worn pair of shoes.)
And now, it feels a bit ungrateful to toss them in the rubbish bin.
It is time for them to move on though. Their replacements (same black All Star Chuck Taylors, men’s size 7) arrived in the mail on Tuesday and were christened today as I scurried around town, visiting possible apartments for our upcoming new arrivals, feeling much more confident in my not-so-new job and sprawling city that I will call home for two years. New shoes have been tagged in- WWE-style.
The old Chucks will not go without a bit of ceremony though. As I walk the four steps to the trash closet on our floor, I’ll channel a little Von Trapp family and sing a touching “zai jian” to my beloved black All Stars.
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night/ I hate to go and leave this pretty sight/ So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen,/ adieu Adieu, adieu, to yieu (righty) and yieu (lefty).
The shiny, scuff free pair kicked unceremoniously by the front door are ready to venture down new pavements, continuing the search for the end of the sidewalk…