Nineteen eighty-eight. Those seventeen years ago I was newly married and still young. Though I'd never been much of an athlete, I was still fairly small. Still, I knew that a small size didn't necessarily mean I was "in shape". I decided to take up walking since it was an exercise that didn't require much skill or coordination. I promptly went to the local mall and purchased a pair of NIKE walking shoes. Wanting something plain and white, I finally selected a pair, size 7 1/2, for around $60. Excitedly, I took them home and began a walking program which consisted of 3 miles a day.
Sometimes I walked outside, but more often I took to the open, echoing hallways of another, smaller mall with mostly abandoned shops and vacant windows. Here I was alone with my thoughts, the music from my headphones and my walking shoes. It was a respite of sorts and I could hear the squeak of the new leather as it made contact with the cool concrete floors, marking my progress with each turn.
Through the years there were lapses in my routine as childrearing and work made it difficult to find time to indulge myself in a private walk. Now the shoes pulled a little red wagon with two preschoolers or ran beside a small bicylist, just learning to pedal. During those years the shoes were on hiatus from their primary function, going instead to the park, on an Ozark vacation or a slow stroll with a little hand in each of mine as we looked for treasures around the neighborhood.
Life has a way of changing and throwing us curves and it is the rare thing that remains constant. In these past 17 years I have gone through many things, including the birth of two children, a divorce, some medical crisis', a remarriage, two jobs and five relocations. And in the midst of all the changes, joyous and difficult, the shoes have endured.
Each time I had the opportunity to get back to walking was a new experience as I was at different points in my life. First I was a newlywed, trying to figure out the intricacies of marriage and contemplating motherhood. Later, during a separation and divorce I gained strength with each successive lap as I repeated over and over to myself that I would be all right. Last year the shoes led me to recovery after major surgery; slowly at first with the aid of a cane, then with gaining momentum as the days passed.
Today is yet a new chapter in my life. And the shoes remain. Definitely worn now, the soles are permanently stained from grass and dirt, rain and sunshine, slabs of concrete...and country roads. There are bumps and ridges where they have conformed to my feet, hugging them like a well-made pair of soft moccasins. Now as I walk along the graveled roads by my house, they are so much a part of me and with them I seek different things each day. Sometimes it is a picture as my camera hangs on my shoulder, looking for the perfect photo opportunity. Often I walk quickly and with purpose, hoping to shed some of those unwanted pounds that have seemed to find me over the years. Sometimes I need to be alone, to think through a difficult time and gain strength in prayer and solitude to deal with whatever I am facing. Many times it is in search of memories as I remember the blessings of my past and the stories within me. And always, I ponder the dreams yet to be.
My walking shoes. Still plain, though not so white now, a reshaped size 7 1/2 with no monetary value. And yet, they've been a part of me for over 1/3 of my life and a partner in priceless memories. My walking shoes. Accompanying me every step of the way.