Like anyone, else, I long for the good old days. And never mind that good old days weren’t actually as good as we remember them. I hitch my wagon to the romanticized version of how life used to be.
Currently, I am fondly remembering the good old days of, oh, about 40,000 years ago, the time just before people starting wearing shoes.
I base this on the fact that, at any given point in time, roughly 40 percent of the surface area of my home’s floor is covered by shoes. Tennis shoes. Boots. Loafers. Sandals. You name it. Shoes. Everywhere.
My shoes are easily tracked. I have my work shoes I wear, and then when I get home, I change clothes just like Mr. Rogers. As I change out shoes — hiking shoes when it’s cold, sandals when it’s not — the work shoes go in the closet, where they will sit until they are needed again the following work morning.
Not the rest of my family. They have shoes upon shoes upon shoes, and the last time they saw a closet was half past never.
All three are different case studies. Most of my son’s shoes are tennis shoes or high tops. He has multiple pairs because he burns through shoes like most people go through loaves of bread. He wears them out to the point there are no longer acceptable to wear to school. That said, they are still somewhat functional, so he can at least wear them when he goes outside, in particular since 75 percent of his time outdoors, he ends up covered in mud, pond water and the occasional feather.
Regardless of which pair of shoes he is wearing, he is usually peeling them off right as he is getting inside the house, sometimes actually leaving one outside and then shedding the other inside. This is especially fun in the mornings when we have not set out shoes for the day, when I get to say fun things like, “Parker can you just wear this one tennis shoe and the wet high top outside? The bus is coming!!!”
My wife and daughter take different, more calculated paths to their shoedom. They have multiple pairs of shoes that go with multiple outfits. Back to me: my “outfit” takes one of three very distinct shapes: Work clothes for work; blue jeans and a t-shirt when it’s cold; shorts and a t-shirt when it’s not. Not a lot of variation there.
Those two, however, have myriad combinations that, at least to them, take on very different personalities based on minor changes to said outfit. And each personality goes with a different pair of shoes. Sometimes, my wife will present herself wearing a different style on either foot and ask me which one I prefer. Oftentimes, I will not even notice they are different. She will then change something and ask again, which leaves me with the reaction of, “And how is the addition of a scarf going to make this something I’m suited to judge?”
And, for whatever reason, once they are done with their shoe journey, the shoes end up, oh, anywhere they might have stopped in the downstairs. For folks who love shoes, they sure can’t wait to get out of them.
Now I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Mike, why don’t you just lay down the law and make them put their dadgum shoes up where they belong?”
To which I say, “That works in your house? Good for you!”
Currently, my most viable option is to pile the shoes on the stairs every few days, loudly announcing to anyone in earshot that I only have a few pairs of shoes and that I don’t seem to have trouble putting them in the closet. Unfortunately, the shoe stair pile is often seen as just an easy clearinghouse until it is depleted, so that sometimes backfires.
At some point, my hope is that the shoes will begin to go to their respective homes. I suppose if this is the worst thing going on in my house, I’ve got it pretty good. Not as good as they did 40,000 years ago, of course. But not bad.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.