Last week I accidently left my old running shoes in the change room at the gym. When I got home and realized that I’d put my indoor-shoes back on, all I could think was that they were going to get thrown out. Normally, that wouldn’t be a concern. The staff would put them in a lost and found box or something like that and you’d just pick them up when you were in again, but these…They look like they’d been traded from hobo to hobo for cigar stubs and canned beans while on box cars, riding the rails from one end of the country to the other. For decades.
If I had found a pair like that, I would have thrown them out, thinking I’d done someone a favour. But lucky for me, they held on to them and I got them back the next day (wrapped up in a giant clear plastic garbage bag that gave me visions of the hazmat team it must have taken to get at them with the proverbial ten foot pole).
It was a surprisingly big relief to get them back. This gross old pair of running shoes. At first I dismissed it, thinking I just didn’t want to have to go shopping or that they were comfy and who wants to break in a new pair if they can spare themselves the blisters? But throughout the day it kept creeping into my thoughts; “sure am glad I got these back”, and it really started to bug me. What was the big deal? It made me think about that line from Forest Gump:Momma always says there’s an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they’re going. Where they’ve been.
I remembered when I got those shoes. It would have been 2004-2005ish (somewhere in there). I had just moved back to Ontario and taken a new job on a stop motion show. That meant long days on my feet so I splurged on a really good quality pair. Not crazy-expensive, but for my budget at the time it was a pretty sizable investment and well worth it. I also started my membership at the gym where I met the real-life Fiona, Trish and Shanta that year. Clearly something that inspired me for a long time.
Even after I’d retired them from gym use for a new pair, those shoes saw me through three different companies and twelve different productions before I went to freelance. They have walked four Relays For Life in two different cities, three of Toronto’s Weekends To End Breast Cancer, one Terry Fox Run, one Run For The Cure, two Mardi-Bras and one MS Society 5k. They tromped up and down Queen’s Park for three Word On The Street Festivals, before I started exhibiting. Then there’s the comic conventions – eight that I can think of off the top of my head in two different countries. Three vacations, who knows how many long weekends and one really good day at a Craps table in Vegas.
I don’t like to think of myself as a nostalgic person, but as I sat there looking over these filthy sneakers, it felt like I was looking at a map or timeline of my own years. I knew every one of the paint smudges, spots of dried glue, the grass stains, food stains, my own blood stains, the Butyl stuck in what was left of the worn down purple treads, almost personally. So many memories of so many people, places, conversations, laughs, tears, fights, melt-downs, jokes… heh. Most people only get this way over photo albums or boxes of mementos.
So in response to Forest’s Momma; I may not have any clue where I’m going most of the time, but it was really nice to reconnect with where I’ve been.