Saving for later

Shoes have always been a part of my memories. Buster Brown shoes dominated my early childhood, as I vividly recall Mom taking me downtown to the shoe store. (Remember shoe stores, where there were real people who showed you a number of shoes and measured your foot and had those neat xray machines you could peek through and see your wiggling toes? This was one of them.) There, every year, it was always the same: Buster Brown shoes, light brown color, with laces.

Most important, as Mom regularly reminded me, they were only to be worn to church on Sunday; the shoes I was to wear to school were the ones I had previously worn just to church. Financially, this made good sense. Why let a child wear new shoes to school where they will get scuffed quickly? Yet I know it was more than that. Shoes cost money and that was a scarce resource. Mom was doing her best to manage the budget and shoe my feet. We saved the good for later.

But that was then. I grew up. I got an education. I got a job. I could buy my own shoes. But my sense of economy from childhood remained. Wearing Walmart shoes was okay by me. All seemed well until, on one of my periodic visits to Mom approximately 30 years ago, she wanted to buy me something—and she decided I needed some walking shoes. Would this be a reliving of childhood?

And so, we went to a fancy shoe store (yep, one with sales people who helped in sizing and fitting shoes…). When we left, I was wearing a new pair of Rockport walkers, priced at $150, roughly three or four times what I normally spent at the time for shoes. So, what did I do? Why it’s obvious, isn’t it? I laid them aside for later. Clearly, they were too expensive to wear on a daily basis. Had I learned anything? Obviously not.

And those beautiful shoes sat unappreciated on the closet floor for the next 20 years, until the day I took a job where there was a nice neighborhood for noontime walks. What better use of those pricey Rockports than there? Anticipating a pleasant and exhilarating walk, I proudly laced up those beautiful shoes (after dusting them off) and headed out for that noontime walk.

But something seemed wrong. The farther I walked, the more uncomfortable it became for my feet. After walking 200-300 yards, I paused and looked at the shoes. They were falling apart. Yes, pieces of the sole were falling into the walkway. Somehow, over that 20 years in the closet, the soles had rotted. Those beautiful and expensive shoes I was “saving for later” were now useless and worthless. A lesson learned (finally, I hoped).

Years passed. Mom lives many states distant and on one of those visits my past came back. Yes, Mom took me to that same store and bought me another (Yes, another) pair of Rockport shoes. I didn’t need the shoes, but she enjoyed giving to me, so I let it be a fun experience for her and I definitely wasn’t going to confess my mismanagement of her earlier gift. Remembering what had gone wrong with the earlier pair, I made sure to select a pair where the soles were made from different material. These shoes I was going to wear daily. You betcha’.

But life doesn’t change easily. I already had several pairs of shoes and the new Rockports sat lonely in the closet—for 10 years. Yes, despite all my commitments to myself, those new shoes, just like those that had preceded them, sat collecting dust.

Years passed. As my body was aging, I began to have a problem with my feet, so off to a doctor went I. And the good doctor, to no one’s surprise, said I needed to wear good walking shoes, not the discount ones adorning my feet. Duh! Good walking shoes. Such as those new Rockports growing old sitting in my closet. With new commitment, I hurried home to give those beautiful Rockports their due and start wearing them daily. I brushed them off and put them on… but something was amiss—they felt rather tight. That’s right, dear readers, my feet had grown and the shoes, those beautiful shoes, were now too small. Somewhere in this world today, there now walks a customer to our local thrift store, enjoying his $150 Rockports he purchased for $10. What else was I to do but donate them? Sigh…

And, with renewed vigor, I did the unthinkable: I BOUGHT some new walking shoes. Yes, this time my shoes were acquired with MY money. Such a difference. I wear them every day and the sunshine has come back into my walks.

My puzzlement, and why I write this, is that I knew all of this years ago. I tell myself that life is to be enjoyed and what items we cherish are to be used, not laid aside for later. A disease from which I suffer that I know has infected millions. From a childhood of limited resources, we carry that rock on our back throughout our lives, never sure that what we have today will be there tomorrow, so we save the good for later and use inferior products in our lives. And I confess, there is still guilt in my heart whenever I put my shoes on. After all, I should really save them for later.