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Little Spouse On The Prairie: The Spirit of '76

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Joel’s a saver to the point that he will continue to wear shoes until they are not much more than a few strips of worn leather clinging to a sole.

Joel’s a saver to the point that he will continue to wear shoes until they are not much more than a few strips of worn leather clinging to a sole. I’m as budget-conscious as the next person, but when the bottoms of Joel’s work shoes are slicker than snot on a doorknob, as a friend of mine used to say, the hospital bills when he falls off a roof he’s shingling outweigh the cost of a new pair of shoes. Besides, I’m not a fan of seeing his big hairy hammer-toes any more than I have to.

I don’t have pretty feet either. But at least I make it a point to shave my toes from time to time. Beyond that, if Joel’s only buying one new pair of shoes per decade, it causes me a lot of guilt about the new pair a week that I buy.

As I’ve discussed before, my teenager now wears the same size of shoes that I do. So really, I’m buying shoes for two when I shop. There’s something to be said for maintenance. I mean, once you let something get run down, it costs more to restore it than it does to keep it up consistently. Maintenance is all I’m doing with my shoe wardrobe. If I were to let down my guard, my shoe collection could become dilapidated, and I just can’t let issues like that sneak up on me.

My husband has a pair of red and what-used-to-be-white high-top athletic shoes from 1976. Apparently, this is the most comfortable pair of shoes he’s ever owned. He feels an attachment to these shoes that rivals his attachment to me. I’m not jealous. I’m really not. I mean, I was only four years old when he bought these god-awful shoes. I can’t account for his taste back then.

It’s just that, I wonder sometimes why he needs to hang on. Although I store them in a scented garbage bag, they retain the odors of nearly four decades of wear. At least we don’t have to worry about dog poo getting stuck in the treads since those wore off in the late 80’s.

Although I pride myself in open-mindedness and honestly facing our histories, no matter how painful, I decided recently that perhaps the time had come to get rid of the red and what-used-to-be-white shoes. I had allowed Joel to relive the glory days of that footwear a number of times. After all, he may keep a few photos of old girlfriends in a trunk, but there’s no need to keep them on the mantle.

So, as casually as I could, I threw the shoes into the trash. I thought - Joel is a reasonable person. He will understand that the time has come to move on. 

Our trash is picked up on Thursday, so I was a bit taken aback when, on Friday of that week, I noticed the red and what-used-to-be-white shoes beside the back door. I have been getting more forgetful in recent years, but I was fairly certain that, as of Thursday morning, those shoes had been placed in a brown paper sack, put into a black plastic lawn bag, wrapped in duct tape, surrounded by dirty paper towels, and then nestled among egg shells, food wrappers, and potato peelings in the garbage can out back.

As I drew near, I realized that now, not only were the shoes imbued with the Spirit of ’76, they also radiated the stink of modern putrescence.

I want to reemphasize that I am not the jealous type. Nor is drama a staple of my personality. But at that moment, I honestly questioned whether I could continue to co-exist with these unwelcome interlopers in our marriage. If I hadn’t been so loath to touch them, I might have flung them outside in a fit of rage. Also, a niggling doubt crept in. He’s had the shoes for decades; we’ve been married less than ten years.  Who is the interloper here? Should I really be issuing ultimatums? For now, I’m predicting that the red and what-used-to-be-white shoes will meet an unfortunate, but completely accidental, end when they fall into our backyard fire pit later this summer.

Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie and on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera. Tune in next week!