Friday, November 16, 2007

The Little Yellow Boots That Could

(from the book "Finding Liberty")

My mom lived almost 10 hours away, which put her on the outer fringe of our realistic “travel range”. Had she been closer, we would have made the trek more often, I guess, but as it was, it was a once a year event that happened on Thanksgiving week. We would load up the mini-van with a week’s worth of clothes, toys, & supplies, and then wedge the children in wherever we could, knowing that over 500 daunting miles stood before us and our objective.

Nine and a half hours of close confinement later (and much to the relief of everyone), the headlights would at last illuminate our destination: Grandma’s house. There was something about finally piling out of the car and making our way to her front door – with the chill of the crisp November air and the crunch of the fallen leaves under our feet - that seemed almost magical.

In a way, it was magic. We were in a land far, far away, with exciting discoveries to be made and interesting histories to explore. It was a place where my kids could peruse the books of their father’s youth, where they could open a toy chest decades old and unearth the same toys – in various states of repair - that I had played with as a child. There were interesting crannies to investigate, a huge backyard to explore, and priceless treasures to secure.

But of all the memories made, odysseys taken, and gifts bestowed, none is more remarkable to me than a pair of little yellow boots.

The edges of Grandma’s kingdom were bordered by a mystical river, wild & unexplored. To a less vigilant eye, it might closer resemble a ditch, but my children were under no such fantasies. Once discovered, this mysterious waterway begged to be explored, and, with Grandma accompanying them as the King’s emissary, my intrepid young explorers would venture out to brave the perils of the unknown. They would spend hours blazing paths, damming waters, and living adventures others could only dream about. And then they would return, exhausted & triumphant; and covered with mud.

The shoes were the real problem, because they simply could not take the abuse of these frequent excursions and be relied upon to escort the children with any dignity whatsoever to the simpler, less dangerous, locales of the region. So the wise and resourceful Grandma bestowed upon her grandchildren a special gift to aid them in these most noble of expeditions: rubber boots.

My little adventurers could now explore to their heart’s content, and upon returning from the ravages of the wilderness, could retire their accoutrements safely away until the opportunity for the next death-defying journey presented itself. But one little warrior named David would have none of it. His boots were different. They were possessed of a mystical power that none of us could realize, and he had no intention of limiting them to occasional excursions into the unknown.

On the surface, there didn’t seem to be anything special about them. To me, they looked like an ordinary pair of rubber boots. They were bright yellow, quite small, with rubber loops extending above the tops to aid in pulling them on. A half inch blue stripe encircled the base of each just above the sole, and two smaller blue strips adorned the upper edges. They were made in China.

None of that, however, seemed to have any meaning to David. He loved those boots, and would wear them whenever he saw fit, which was most of the time. Under normal circumstances, David shares a trait with his father that was no doubt given to him by me; one of caution and even outright anxiety regarding things & places unknown. But in his boots, he was fearless.

He wore them everywhere, and would do anything in them. Whether swinging in the backyard, riding his bike down the street, or running over homemade obstacle courses he setup for himself (I’m getting into shape, Dad. I need to build up my muscles), his face would set with determination against whatever opponents his imagination could muster, and he would vanquish them all.

To my shame, there were times when I would try to intervene and separate my young superhero from his source of power:

David, if you want to go to the store with me, maybe you should put on a regular pair of shoes.
But why, Daddy?
He would ask with genuine curiosity and puzzlement. What’s wrong with these?

“What’s wrong” indeed. Was it him that I was concerned about, this little boy who could so boldly confront the world in his little yellow boots without a second thought, or was it me, an aging man who might possibly be embarrassed to be seen in public with a child so ridiculously attired? Did I want to be the Lex Luthor of my son’s childhood, stealing away his power only to shackle him instead with the kryptonite of public opinion to carry with him throughout his life?

Why, I guess now that I think about it, there’s nothing wrong at all, I would say with a smile, and we would then bound off to the store together with the father basking in the courage of the son.

Years have passed, and regardless of whatever mystical energy those little yellow boots contain, there is one nemesis that even they are powerless to defeat: a little boy who is furiously growing into a young man. David still loves his boots, and he still wears them with the same reckless abandon that he always has, but I know it is coming to an end. Even if I can pretend that they are not the worse for wear, the proclamation from David himself that his toes get “a little scrunched up” when he wears them now is a clear signal that they will soon lose their animation entirely, only to find themselves pushed aside and forgotten. The time is coming when they will retire as partners in adventure to become instead collectors of dust.

When that sad day comes, however, there will be some salvation for those little yellow boots that have served my son so well. They will not be discarded; how dishonorable that would be! Instead, they will be rescued, and moved to a place of safety as they join an elite group of treasures that have a worth to me beyond comprehension. There they will remain; quiet, patient, and without complaint.

And maybe one day, years distant, a small young boy bearing a striking resemblance to David will make a trip to his grandparents house for Thanksgiving. And maybe that young boy in his exploration might come across a chest, hidden and obscure in the corner of a closet, and open it to find a fascinating pair of worn & scuffed little yellow boots.

And maybe he’ll ask his Grandpa if he knows anything about them.

1 comment:

MrsCatherine said...

I love your link on the side...My Gorgeous Wife's Blog! Now I know you need to get your prescription glasses changed! ;O) These people have not seen me in the mornings!!! ~giggling~

I love you sweetie! I am so very, very proud of you!

xoxo Cat (who thinks she is married to one handsome man!!!)