Good Idea at the Time

wooden-shoesI keep my wooden shoes under the bed because I’m not sure where else to put them. I don’t wear them much. Actually, I don’t wear them at all, although they are my size. I bought them in 1978 at an international folk fair in Milwaukee. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I went to the fair with a busload of my Catholic schoolmates. All of us were studying Spanish, German, or French, the standard foreign languages offered in 1970s high schools. The trip was billed as a day of learning, but we students knew better. It was a road trip. To Milwaukee. We imagined it would be an adventure, and even it if wasn’t, it still was a day away from home.

At the fair my friends and I ate our way through an assortment of international foods and also browsed around the various vendors of culture and crafts. As I recall, the Holland booth was well stocked with wooden shoes in a range of sizes, including mine (U.S. women’s size 11). I guess I was so surprised to find wooden shoes that fit me, that I decided I had to have them. I believe I wore them back to the bus at the end of the day. I also believe that was the only time I ever wore them, except to occasionally tromp lightly in my bedroom at home.

The wooden shoes were an impulse buy. Because really, why would a 16-year-old girl from central Wisconsin need wooden shoes? And why does a 54-year-old woman in Iowa still need to keep them? I’ve been paying for that teenage shopping impulse for 38 years — with time spent packing and unpacking them in moves from apartment to apartment and house to house, as well as the time spent cleaning them. (Wooden shoes get rather dusty when unused under the bed.) But I think I’m finally paid up.

The wooden shoes were a good idea at the time. They were a fun novelty that at least set me apart from the other kids on the bus. But that time has passed. I now realize I’ve always enjoyed the story more than the shoes themselves. I once was the girl who kept the wooden shoes. Now I’m the woman who would rather keep the story.

So instead of remaining under the bed, my wooden shoes will find their next home via a garage sale, in a thrift store donation bag, or on the curb, whichever happens first. Because at this time, it’s a better idea.

Laura Sternweis

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