I threw away a pair of shoes today. They were inexpensive to begin with...the kind where the soles and heels cannot be replaced. I'm very bad with shoes; I quickly wear down the heels at an odd angle. I bought another pair to replace them, but kept the old ones “just in case.” (In case of what I did not know.)
But this old pair were not just any shoes—I'd bought them just before leaving for my what I still think of as my “Triumphal Return to Europe” tour last year, and I wore them from London to Paris to Cannes to Venice to Florence to Sorrento to Pompeii to Rome. They were with me, literally, every step of the way. They walked through the Louvre and the Vatican and Piazza San Marco in Venice and wandered the beach at Cannes and the streets of Pompeii. They climbed Mt. Vesuvius, for Pete's sake! To throw them away would be to throw away a tangible, I-can-reach-out-and-touch-it-and-hold-it-in-my-hand direct link to everything I did and saw on that trip.
While I do not hold a college degree in “Strange” I feel I've earned several honoraries in the field. Since my earliest childhood (as opposed to my later and current childhoods) I have, however unwittingly or irrationally, subscribed to the “pathetic fallacy”--the ascribing of awareness and feelings to inanimate objects. Throwing away anything with which I associate strong memories is, truly, very difficult for me. Probably the majority of my possessions have stories to tell of the people and places with whom and which I equate them. To throw them away is akin to throwing away the people and places they link me to.
Let me make it clear that I readily admit my chances for becoming Poster Boy for a mental health campaign are limited in the extreme. I am, I know, far more emotional—and therefore far more emotionally attached to things—than probably would be considered “normal” (a word that has always sent shudders of dread through me when I try to equate myself with it).
Anyway, back to the shoes. Yesterday, I sold my car and find myself without a motor vehicle for the first time in 62 years. I'd bought the car off the showroom floor on September 15, 1999, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the people other than myself who ever drove it. When I sold it (living in a city the size of Chicago with public transportation to any part of the city less than a block away made it both financially and logically impractical to keep), it had less than 70,000 miles on it. So as long as I had made so major a traumatic step, I decided to ride the crest of resolve and throw away the shoes, which had been sitting by my bed for months.
So I picked them up and put them in the wastebasket. A few minutes later, I took them out of the wastebasket, telling myself I could still wear them around the apartment or around my building. Our mutual history aside, I absolutely hate to throw away anything that still might have some use. (And no, I will not discuss the state of my refrigerator and freezer.)
I then wandered for some reason into the living room and noticed my favorite chair, which I purchased somewhere in the late 60s or early 70s while living in Los Angeles. I've had it reupholstered once, but it could badly use it again. To do so would undoubtedly cost more than the price of a brand new chair, and I don't even know if people still reupholster furniture, how I might find them or how, my now being without a car (for the first time in 62 years...or did I mention that?) I might get it to/back from them. Since the delivery charge for a few bulky items from a national chain store less than six blocks from my apartment had cost around $50 (and they left it at the desk downstairs), I can only imagine what it would cost for an upholsterer to pick up and return a chair—plus the cost of reupholstery itself. So as I debate whether to go to the trouble and expense of having it reupholstered, it sits there, whispering “All your friends and relatives who have sat here over the years are still here. Come. Sit. Remember.”
I know. I know. Think what you will; I can't fault you for it.
But, oh, yes, I should tell you that I returned to the bedroom and put the shoes back in the wastebasket, where I can see their worn-out heels sticking up amidst various crumpled sheets of paper and used Kleenex. I hope I can keep them there. I hope I can resist the whispers saying “Vesuvius.”
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).