Sunday, June 24, 2012

Red Shoes and new beginnings

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes which you haven't quite been able to let go of ? Maybe they're the high heels you wore to your high school dance ... the shoes you danced in on your wedding day ... a pair of hiking boots or favorite flip-flops.

I have a pair of red Doc Martins ... not the heavy black lace-up types I always wanted in my post-student days and maybe not the coolest ... but they have been with me through some of the major adventures of my life and they're still in my cupboard, sometimes still worn ... still my most comfortable shoes for days walking the sidewalks of Manhattan or going sight seeing in the winter.

These shoes walked the pathways of Rhodes University, down from the art school on the hill and into town to the digs I shared - crazy Thompson street with all its memories of candlelit nights in the garden, long chats under the moonlight and gold sparkly dresses ... paintings and cooking in the tiny kitchen and two of my best friends as housemates. The same shoes trekked all over town during the Grahamstown Festival when our house overflowed with friends and strangers, makeshift beds sprung up in the living room and every inch of spare space claimed ... gl├╝hwein and long evenings ... plays and exhibitions and deep discussions over beers in the cold night air ... a cat followed my cousin home and stayed for a few months, leaving treasures he had caught for me in the very same shoes.

They went with me back to Durban and took me out to dark nightclubs and the lighter trendier ones. Walked me to work every day in the winter. Held me up when my heart got broken (again) and I thought I could not take even one more step. Took me to Joburg for the interview with the British Embassy and the terror and joy of my first international flight, alone, to London. Just one suitcase and a whole new life beginning.

They wore tracks in the pavements between Notting Hill Station and Portobello Road .. early mornings and after work ... past the funky boutiques and antique furniture shops ... rows of colored houses with their bright front doors. Outside the shop at our market stall on Saturdays, meeting tourists and travellers and seeing a whole new world unfold before my eyes. Long days spent taking orders and working with  gorgeous artwork, seeing it transformed behind a frame. Smoke-breaks outside the back doors, in the mews ... so much laughter and living. They moved with me from Bakerloo to Wembley and down to Fulham to the house with the movie-poster kitchen and my room just big enough to fit a bed. But what a view and the pulse of London. Big cups of tea after work and drifting down the road for dinners and nights out. Day trips and weekends away.

I owned the same shoes when I met the man I was to marry. He called them beetle-crushers and the name still sticks. They stood in after my favorite black high-heeled boots got worn out on a early morning walk home from an Oxford Street jazz club all the way to Fulham. Great company and lots of laughter and we just never saw a night bus and so we kept on walking. Until my heel broke and it was almost sunrise. Red Doc Martins to the rescue. All the way through the days of new romance and moving in together, our first flat in Earlsfield and new adventures.

Being married and moving out of London. Setting up home and figuring out what i wanted to do when i grew up. Moving again and starting a new career. All through the same shoes in my closet. Buying our first home. Falling pregnant and becoming a mother. My feet grew a size after that but my shoes they still fit. A little like the magical travelling pants.

And then a move across the ocean again to New York. My first winter here the shoes took me apple picking and we carried pumpkins home to decorate for Halloween. They crunched fall leaves and walked in the snow. They figured life out on a new continent. They went to classes with Hayden and playdates. They were there when I made new friends. Gingerly and slowly, but so gratefully. They explored the sidewalks of Manhattan. No pavements here. They stood in awe in the Museum of Modern Art. They wandered around Central Park. I wore them when I fell pregnant with Lexi and when my feet grew another size again, they still fit. They drove me down to Philadelphia for my first ever art course and painting that day with Flora made something wake up inside again. Now they are decorated with green splashes of paint. Kind of how they should be, being my shoes.

These babies are not glamorous high-heeled strutting-their-stuff kind of shoes. They are solid and comfortable and have stood the test of time. They are probably not really what women my age should wear - not sophisticated or elegant and certainly not feminine. But I love them. Love the fact that with all the changes in my life, of all the things to have carried with me it is these shoes. Oh the miles they have walked. The stories they can tell.

Now they are off on a new adventure ... the reason for my blogging silence of late. I couldn't write about anything else when there was so much going on in my head over the past few weeks ... such big decisions and so many backwards and forwards and yes and no and maybe and absolutely not. And then a yes. 

In the next few weeks my shoes will be packed in a box and shipped off to my new home in Texas in July, for we are moving. Another state. From what everyone says, it may as well be another country. Apparently some would like it to be. It was a heart renching decision - to move again now that we are so settled here, we have our friends and the kids are settled and happy. But it's about so many things - a new opportunity, a better balance between work and play. About hope. More sunshine and longer summers, and we love the heat a bit more than the cold. Well, mostly. Am I nervous ? Yes. But also a little excited. A new adventure. And my shoes, they just love the challenge of the unknown. New sidewalks, new roads, new paintings, new stores and new playgrounds. Maybe they'll be in semi-retirement because it's warmer and flip-flops will be the first thing I grab. But on the colder days of winter you will find me walking walking walking in a flash of red. I'll keep you posted on our adventures as we go.

Here's to the adventurous spirit in all of us ... and to new beginnings and old red friends.


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