Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Blue Suede Shoes

Do you have a clear memory of what you were like when you were little? I find myself wishing that I could remember more. I'm sure it's all part of my almost-midlife crisis. (Other elements of said crisis are: finding it to be a real chore when I have to make myself "presentable", coming within an inch of chopping my hair off every-other-month, an increasing fondness for ice cream, an intolerance for uncomfortable clothes, becoming even more of a hermit, etc.. etc...) It's a real doozey of a crisis, as you can see.

I catch myself trying to recall what my days were like when I was little Shannan Garber. I know that I was generally happy and quite care-free. I know I was loved, daily. Every minute, in fact. I know I had everything I needed and most things I wanted. I know I was taught not to ask for things - to be content. I know all of these things, but I'm grasping to capture a few vivid pictures of the mundane moments of my life. They are there, I know they are. I just need to dig a little.

Here is a memory that I've plucked from the archives and tossed safely into my memory jar: I was probably about 9 or 10 years old and school had just let out for the Summer. We were gearing up for the annual Strawberry Festival, where my dad competed on a ridiculous obstacle course team of other 30- and 40-somethings from the area. If you know my dad, and most of you probably do, he took this very seriously.

The night before the big day, my mom took my brother, my sister and I over to K-Mart for our Summer clothes. I probably got 3 or 4 pairs of shorts (I don't think I was at the "jams" stage yet...I'm pretty sure I was still at regular ol' shorts) and I surely got a couple of t-shirts and tank tops as well as a pair of thongs. (Flip flops? What the heck are flip flops?) All I remember for sure is that I got a new pair of Traxx tennis shoes. Royal blue faux suede with white pleather stripes on the sides. Basically, the modern-day equivalent of the cheapest shoes you find on the rack at Meijer. They didn't even come in a shoe box, if that tells you anything.

As soon as we got back to the truck I begged Mom to take the tags off so I could wear them right away. She pulled out the cigarette lighter and burned off the nylon tag, which blew me away. Who knew there was a gadget you could pull out of the dashboard that contained a ready-made orange flame in the end? I hopped into the back of the truck (the actual bed of the truck - it did at least have a cap!) and we headed home. I knew for sure that I was going to look so great the next day in my new shoes. I knew everyone would notice and that probably some people would be jealous. I knew I would be able to run faster. I knew I was very special, in part because of my new, blue shoes.

I don't remember how the following day panned out. I'm sure I was dressed and ready to go well before it was time and I'm sure I had a fantastic time at the festival. I'm sure I felt so proud of my dad for being the Best one on the team (I was positive that he was) and I'm sure I thanked my mom a hundred times for my new clothes.

Now, I look back and realize that it is likely that no one really noticed my new shoes and if they did, they may have felt sorry for me - just a little. My new shoes did not make me cooler. They did not make me run faster. What they did do, though I didn't realize it then, was instill in me the idea that happiness is found in contentment and contentment is found in gratitude. This lesson has become muddied and then clear again, over the years, but I'm so thankful for it. And I'm even more thankful for the memory.