In preparation for an upcoming trip to Alaska (to be taken as a delayed 60th birthday celebration for David), I recently bought some Birkenstock boots. I am a huge fan of Birkenstock, having owned many pairs of their sandals and one pair of shoes over the years, but I had never considered buying this brand of boots. I don’t have the opportunity to wear hiking boots very often because, of course, I live in South Florida where, thankfully, most of the time the weather is too hot to wear anything but sandals. I have purchased two pairs of hiking boots in the past, neither of which passed the test of time. It finally dawned on me to drive to my local Birkenstock store, where I found exactly what I need for the Alaska trip. The owner of the store, where I have shopped for decades, was happy to see me again and as soon as I completed my purchase, congratulated me on my good taste in footwear and cheerily said, “These boots will last the rest of your life.” At first, I was quite taken aback by this comment. Then I realized the shoe store owner is right: these boots will last the rest of my life. Not only are they of excellent quality and can be re-soled if necessary, but at my age, there is no way I will wear these hardy hiking boots to the extent they will need to be replaced. On my way home, I pondered the fact that my boots will almost certainly outlive me. It is a sobering thought, but a fact of life. (Maybe I should have bought another pair of poorly made boots…)
I’m not sure the shoe store owner did himself any favors. One and done is not a good way to encourage repeat customers. Of course, in South Florida, most of his shoppers buy Birkenstock sandals, not boots. I don’t know how long my current boots will last, but I suspect another pair is in my future, hopefully long after the trip to Alaska. I’ve had varied experiences with boots, including the very comfortable, solid pair, I wore for years until the soles came off of them when we were in 110+ degree heat in Arizona. The glue melted and suddenly I was wearing flip flopping boots! Kind of funny later, but it was not then! However, I think the overall point of this post is not boots, but rather, when do we come to realize that our “stuff” will outlast us. Americans, in particular, seem inclined to collect stuff. From furniture to figurines to artwork or whatever else one likes, including for an aunt of mine, cake plates, we accumulate. Having recently cleaned out my parents’ belongings, I thought about how this stuff takes on a life of its own. What do we do with all of it? We did the best we could with everything, re-purposing, gifting, keeping, and discarding. They didn’t have any boots, but so much other stuff. Things that outlasted them, but which will provide memories of them in meaningful ways.