Well, I’ve finally gone and done it. I’ve said “goodbye” to a pair of dear friends. It was really difficult, but it’s not like they belong in a museum, or even a keepsake box. Although the prospect of having set them away as a memento might befall my future “friends”, I just don’t think our children will necessarily want an old pair of sneakers that Dad wore way back when.
I’m talking about a pair of very well loved tennis shoes. I found and bought two pair of them, brand new, in a local thrift store. They’ve seen me through 9-seasons of theatre production and 4-years of studio art-making. To simply chuck them in the garbage seems like ingratitude on my part, but it must be done.
You know how it is, parents often keep the baby-shoes of their children. Just pulling them out of the box every decade brings back a flood of memories. You can’t believe how time has passed so quickly, how they’ve grown, and who they’ve become. Well, it’s kind of like that for me as I trekked along on a certain chapter of my own creative journey. I too can hardly believe all of the wonderful art-making I did while wearing those particular shoes.
The soles are completely worn out. The in-soles are bumpy and terribly smelly. But it’s the tops that hold a fascination for me, because in those splashes of color, those worn spots mended with duct-tape, and even those few knife cuts rest many good memories of fabulous art-making.
When I look at the paint spots I am reminded of one play production after another, or of the creation of many of my earliest hand-painted paper stocks. I’m reminded, in those worn out toes, of hours upon bent knees in scenery construction and assembly, and of always being under a deadline.
The piles of splatters hold memories of my transition from theatre into the search for a new creative pursuit in visual art; of putting up a studio at home, and searching for a creative outlet of my own beyond the collaboration of theatre. In contrast to the huge collaborative infrastructure of running a theatre company, my creative life became, me, God, and my very faithful shoes.
Each day I put them on, those shoes were like dear friends encouraging me to get up, keep going, keep searching, because somehow, somewhere I have something good to offer in creativity. They were my best link in a broken series of creative efforts reminding me that with tenacity, persistence, effort, and above all, faith, I would reinvent myself once again.
Seeing those worn out, tape-patched, paint-splattered toes said, “We’ve done this before. We’ll go on and do something else. We’ll be meaningfully creative again, but in different media.
So you see, while they’re just an old pair of shoes, they’re also a pair of my very best friends; having always supported me, protected me, and bringing me comfort in their collective marks and signs of wear. I miss them because they were so darned comfortable. I miss them because we’ve been through a lot together. And I release them because I have stepped into a new future.