The girl with the yellow shoes

When I was unpacking after the trip, I decided to pull a bunch of sweaters that I don’t often wear out of my drawer and put them into a storage container in my closet. On a whim, I got out the stepstool and pulled two shoeboxes off of the top shelf. I opened the older one first, and breathed in the smell of summer, of sweaty feet, and of wearing Chuck Taylors sans socks.

When I was starting high school, Chucks were popular again, and all the preps wore them, so of course I didn’t have a pair, even though I’d always wanted some. After about six months, though, their popularity faded, and I can’t remember if it was during my junior year or the summer after my junior year that I went and bought myself a pair. I do remember buying them, though. I wanted some that were distinctive, and the canary yellow pair I found for $9.88 fit the bill.

I’m not sure if I was known at school as “the girl with the yellow shoes.” At Governor’s School, some of my friends called me that, but I don’t know that anyone at school really noticed. My friend Anne-Marie and I were the only two girls in the school who wore Chucks (hers were a tan color), and I at least saw them as a symbol: we weren’t the kind of girls who hung out on senior hall or wore all the right clothes. We marched to the beat of our own drum (as much as two high schoolers who are actually the goody-two-shoes type can) and we were proud of it. My “outstanding senior” picture in the yearbook is of me in my yellow shoes, and I specifically wore them that day so they’d be in my yearbook for eternity. (Along with a shirt that said “freak.” I’ll go ahead and answer the inevitable question: Yes, it was one of those shirts. Except mine was red. I feel so exposed now that my dirty little secret is out. I might need a hug.)

Looking at them now, the shoes are rattier and dirtier than I remember. They have writing on the sides (never on the canvas) that either I or my friends put there, some of which I remember and some of which I don’t. They remind me of easier times – my summer at Governor’s School, eating lunch in the courtyard of my high school with Anne-Marie, going to my friends’ band practices (an actual band, not just high school band). I remember some of the t-shirts I always wore with those shoes – my Math shirt from GSW, my (I’ll go ahead and say it) Third Day shirt with the alien on it (this entry is deteriorating quickly), my Quiz Bowl shirt with Dilbert on it. I still have all those, because they’re more than just shirts. They symbolize a time when I was more confident about myself and my faith and my future. Most teenagers don’t love high school, and I certainly didn’t, but I knew who I was. I was a girl who wore yellow Chuck Taylors.

I stopped wearing them in college, who knows why. Maybe at least in part because they were so ratty looking. Maybe I was trying to put childish things behind me. Maybe my fashion tastes changed. I must have worn them at least a little, though, because one of my friends bought me a new pair of yellow ones at some point. They were a brighter yellow, and to my eyes were almost garish. And, wearing brand new Chucks would make me sort of a poser. I could be spotted as someone who recently bought a pair, not the kind of girl who’d had hers for a while, who’d been places in her Chucks. For whatever reason, I never wore them. I thanked her and put the box high in my closet, not wanting to get rid of them.

I opened that box the other night, too. The yellow didn’t seem as offensive as I had remembered it, and I thought about my friend who had done such a nice thing for me, and I thought about that girl who used to wear yellow shoes. I kind of miss her. In some ways, the past few weeks have helped me start to find her again. And so, I told Mike last night, I am going to wear yellow shoes again.

Just saying that makes me feel like I’m about to start a new adventure.

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