Dear friends at Frye,
A long time ago, around the time my first child was born, I adopted a simple, highly efficient approach to footwear: sandals from April 1 to September 30; boots from October 1 to March 31. I am a sensible, practical, predictable sort of woman in this way.
Boots being a staple of my wardrobe, I had several pairs, none of them expensive, because I am not, generally speaking, the expensive shoe type. In a home of rescued dogs, a rescued husband, a rescued house and first one then two children, fancy will never be my reality, nor my priority.
The year I turned 50, in 2015, the company for which I’d worked for nine years was acquired by a much larger organization, and the culture changed overnight from collaborative to autocratic. I took out my frustrations during long walks with my favorite dog of all time, a rescued Cane Corso mastiff named Lulu, who looked very intimidating but was quick to hide between my legs at the first sign of trouble.
Then, two weeks after my birthday, Lulu died in my lap after her morning walk. That fall, my children entered full-fledged teenage growing pain mode, and I struggled right along with them.
It was a miserable, depressing, soul-sucking year. Plus, I was 50 – FIFTY! – with creases in my forehead and a crown of silver hair to prove it.
It was, I hope, the winter of my discontent. As winter came near an end and signs of spring appeared in late February, I decided to quit my job, despite not having another one lined up ahead. It was time to turn over a new leaf, take a risk, re-invent myself.
Perhaps in coincidence, though perhaps not, I got a sign from the universe that I had to leave the old me behind. While I was on a walk, missing Lulu, one of my other dogs, a bat-shit crazy chocolate Lab named Charlie Brown, ate my favorite pair of tan suede boots, the boots I’d been wearing every day since October 1, the ones that had become my security blanket, my uniform, my one, true, constant thing.
In that moment, I decided I was finally worth a pair of Frye boots, a fantasy I’d carried around since 7th grade when I tore an advertisement from the glossy pages of seventeen magazine, certain that a pair of Frye boots, accompanied by a chic and wavy brunette shag, a long gypsy skirt and silver hoop earrings, would transform me from a dumpy adolescent into a sultry, earthy beauty. A pair of magical boots? You bet. They could right all my early teenage wrongs, stomp me directly to better ground. I was sure of it.
Only I spent my carefully-saved, hard-earned babysitting money on a school trip to Italy.
And then, in college, I spent my equally-hard-earned (a dollar a page, for typing) cash on train tickets into the city, haircuts at Astor Place and student-priced admission to MoMA.
By my 20s I’d set aside the idea of investing in a special pair of boots, greedy for quantity over quality.
In my 30s I had children. In my 40s I raised them. And worked. And waited until it was finally my time, my turn.
I looked and researched carefully. I would not order online but instead go to a local store, right here in Memphis, seeking the perfect fit.
In my mind, I pictured coming home with a pair of sensible, classic, low-heeled, cognac-colored riding boots. Simple, practical, predictable. That was my game.
Instead I fell in love with a sexy silhouette of soft, chocolate brown suede. With a heel. Like nothing I had ever worn before.
It took us a while to get adjusted to our respective contours. I extended the April 1st boot-to-sandal conversion day in order to get my new Fryes fully broken in. I wore them everywhere, until the lusty month of May got too hot and sweaty.
When October 1st rolled around, I couldn’t wait to be reunited, back in the saddle. We were inseparable, every day, these boots and I. Suits. Jeans. Cocktail dresses. Yoga pants. Our pairing knew no bounds. We were the picture-perfect couple. Together we could conquer the world. Even my teenage daughter approved.
I kept the boots in their original box for a month or so, knowing my dogs’ propensity for destruction of property. But the cardboard box started to wear at the seam, so I sent it to the recycling pile and hid my brown suede prize in the dark back corner of the closet, behind the other shoes and shoe boxes, camouflaged by the long clothes at the end of the rack.
Planning a week-long trip for meetings and a conference, I intended to take, for the footwear portion of my wardrobe, only running shoes and my trusty Fryes, knowing they’d get me through any situation I might encounter.
Except that three days before my departure another dog, the otherwise well-behaved sister of bat-shit crazy Charlie Brown, wormed her way into my closet and devoured every inch of the shaft of one of my beloved chocolate brown boots. I came home from the gym and was greeted by guilty eyes, tucked tail and irrefutable physical evidence. I knew what had happened before I even saw proof of the betrayal.
I looked and looked for an identical replacement, but to no avail. I visited our last remaining local cobbler in hopes that he might be able to craft something out of the remains, but it was too tall an order.
Then I realized it was time to move on. The longing had been consummated, the desire run its course.
And so my first Fryes were laid to rest, wrapped in leftover quilting fabric, tied with a satin ribbon and sent back to you by FedEx.
Reflecting on our time together, I can say with certainty that these boots did their job and did it well. They walked me, magically, from one side of midlife to another.
I haven’t ruled out a second, different pair of Frye boots, maybe a low-heeled, cognac-colored riding boot, though also maybe not. Perhaps this time I’ll shop with my daughter, a boot-wearer since her toddler days, who has, in her early teenage-hood, more style, confidence and freedom than I will ever know.
But for today, it’s now April, the season of bright pink polish, well-scrubbed heels and sparkly sandals. I have six months to give the matter of boots some serious thought, open to the new adventures ahead.
P.S. – an update (January 2019). Since this post makes the rounds every few months, I thought I’d add an update. Thanks to a shoe-obsessed friend who is also Zulily shopper, I have not one but two pairs of Frye boots: a low-heeled, slate leather pair, and a copper suede, medium-heeled pair that are almost identical to the ones the dog ate. Except that they aren’t, and I hardly ever wear them. I’ve never gotten a response from Frye. Even on that god-awful Twitter.
Food | Week of April 3, 2017
Fish Cakes with Herbs & Chiles | Green Salad
Fork Tender Pork Ragu (it’s a make-ahead thing)