England Part 2: A Boot Funeral At Jone’s Bootmaker in Hastings

I had confided in Carroll that I was pretty sure during this trip in Hastings, God was going to replace my boots. Oh, my boots…I wish those 14 years ago when I first got my boots I would have had the foresight to realize how meaningful they would be – if I had, I could have captured the moment when they came into my life. But sometimes you just don’t know how precious something can become to you until it’s years later when you know a sad parting is very near.

I’ve known for, oh, I guess a year or so maybe that the time would be coming soon when my Italian boots would have to be laid aside – honestly, I’d been in denial every time my husband told me “you really need new boots, those things are on the way out.” It was probably that trip a year ago through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Israel in thigh-high water that did them in. Well, maybe it was my tendency to pretend they were snow boots…but really, it’s borderline miraculous they stayed in-tact the 14 years that they did when I think about the wear and tear and abuse my beloved boots endured.

But going back to the beginning when Ralph splurged that night in Vicenza and spent 110 Euro on my boots, it was love at first sight. They became my go-to shoe for all occasions: hiking, dressing up, running out the door for a quick shopping trip. And even though they got a much needed break every summer, as soon as the weather cooled just enough until the end of spring when sheer foot sweat made me pause the donning of the boots, they were my dear old pal and podial companion.

Now fast forward to that day, Monday May 15, at Jone’s Bootmaker. I walked in nervously – partly hoping to find a worthy replacement, and partly wishing no such thing existed and I could walk back out in my well-worn foot gear. The first pair I tried on were actually pretty good – I could have made myself content with them: same height, same color. Not perfect, but they really.. could … do….. until I saw them. They were brown, not black – but they still zipped up (one of my favorite characteristics of my boots). They had adorable buckles on the sides. They…fit like a glove and made me fall in love again. And if you are thinking at this moment that I am ridiculous, you’d better not read a single sentence further. Ridiculous is only about to begin.

I was just beaming, as happy as anyone could be – I felt like I’d just gotten engaged to a new pair of shoes and we were about to get married. And then, my breath caught in my throat as I realized a terrible, terrible reality: my old faithful friends of black and leather must go…goodbye had arrived. I had this realization just as the store clerk handed me the receipt, and the tears uncontrollably began to roll gently down my cheeks.

“Um, I have to wear my new boots out of here, sir. But can I have the box for my old boots? Oh…um. Actually. Can I say goodbye to my boots and…(gulp)…leave them here?” Yes, my voice choked, and I was shedding tears. I had the sense to remain calm enough not to go full ‘ugly-crying’. But I was exerting a lot of self control as the fulness of my dilemma sank in. I was stuck, I didn’t know how to go about this. So I decided then and there, I had to confiscate this small space for a very intimate boot funeral.

“Will you give us a moment?” I asked the gentleman. “We’re just going to have a short ceremony and say goodbye.” The poor guy, I’m not sure I would want to know what he thought of this very odd American girl with a relationship to a pair of boots. I had tried to explain my strange tie while purchasing the new ones, telling him some of the places the boots and I had been, and so on. But now I was alone as my dear friend Carroll sat looking on and photographed the event.

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Carefully, one at a time (well, because we all put our shoes off and on one at a time, that was silly to say), very solemnly, I placed the black boots on the black paper (The gentleman had almost taken the paper away! He had crumpled it up – I don’t think I shouted at him when I said ‘Oh! I need that! They need to be properly buried and that paper is just right.’ well, I know I didn’t shout, so I’m not sure why he got suddenly wide-eyed as he un-crumpled the black tissue and handed it back). As soon as both boots were lying peacefully side by side, I knew the moment had come. But I just sat there cross-legged on the floor, unable to literally put the lid on the coffin.

Thankfully, Carroll is my very good friend who is at the same moment very supportive – she did take all the funeral photos – and very honest. Her honesty came in one statement, “Melissa, if I was younger, I’d have been mortified by this and run out. But this is great.” I don’t think she was laughing at me, but there were numerous unsuppressed giggles from the photographer. that’s okay though, funerals don’t have to be totally sober and serious. And, despite the occasional chuckles, Carroll had the very best idea that got me passed the finality moment!

“So one of those de-clutter shows I watched, there was this Japanese guy who said that when you came to an item that you must get rid of, you can thank it for the joys it brought you to help you part with it before you put it in the trash.”

“Oh, that’s a brilliant idea! I’ll say a word of thanks to my boots!” Even though Carroll admitted right away that she was kind of joking – with another chuckle that I didn’t find as appropriate, but I forgive her because she is my very good friend – the suggestion was taken seriously by myself, and more importantly it gave me the push to pop the top on the box. I laid my hands over it and spoke my final words of gratitude.

The young man was about to walk into the back of the store (I think he had actually looked on the entire time but from a respectful distance), so I quickly stopped him. “Excuse me, sir, wait – can you bury these for me? The dumpster is fine.”

He looked a little concerned.

“I promise, you won’t find me dumpster diving later, I’m ready to part with them now.”

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“Oh, yeah, no. That’s all right. I’ll take care of them for you then.”

“Thank you.” Ah….So that was it. In just a few short minutes, my boots of 14 years and I were parted. There is still a tinge in my heart that wishes they were back, but it was the right thing to do.

And as I zipped up my new boots, it felt quite right. These new brown ones have yet to earn my trust and fondness, but I’m pretty sure it’s the start to another good boot-ship, or rather, friendship.

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