816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Sappy over slightly stained, totally loved footwear

“You are the Imelda of Mulch,” my friend Denise commented on a picture of my gardening shoes.

“Different jobs require different shoes,” I replied. Too many? How can a person have too many gardening shoes? Missing was a pair of work boots that Noah just outgrew and I was going to add to the collection.

The collection? I thought of it as a collection? Maybe Denise had a point, it takes a lot of shoes to make a collection. And she wasn’t the first person to recently comment on them, either.

“Why don’t you toss shoes we don’t wear that are in the garage?” Brian had asked me the day before.


‘Don’t wear?’ I wear all of mine,” I told him and got a look in response that said, “Seriously? We are talking valuable garage real estate.”

I got to work and tossed one pair right as I began. They weren’t


but I knew that they didn’t fit the owner. Plus, I thought maybe any action would build to the momentum I would need to throw out some of my gardening shoes.

I was wrong.

(It happens a lot.)

Shoe by shoe I dug into the heap and matched up pairs. Brian’s Wellies — perfect condition — keep. Luke’s baseball cleats — nasty, dirty, a size smaller than he currently wears — toss. A mud caked and torn pair of Noah’s sneakers that he wore fishing — ick — toss.

I picked up a pair of my own muddy, ripped, innersoles-long-gone sneakers. I had used them for projects that had a high Lose a Shoe in the Mud factor. But I had a pair of worn tennis in my bedroom closet that could fill this role — easy — toss.

“I threw out one pair,” I shouted in victory … to no one, then contemplated the four pairs of size six and a half, semi-grass stained, loved to within an inch of their lives shoes that stood as close to attention as inanimate objects could get.

The mesh sneakers with a Velcro strap. Perfect for lawn mowing, as evidenced by the green smears on the toe. As wear-all-the-time shoes, they have been on a train trip halfway across the U.S. and on a rocky beach as water shoes in Maine.

Purple Croc-likes. The go-to for everyday weeding and digging. The sole is firm enough to handle a shovel, but flexible enough for balancing on a small rock so I don’t step on the soil and compact it. I got them with a whole collection of pink and purple shoes when Bekah outgrew them in the fifth grade.

Gold ballet flat Crocs. The fast and cute slip-on shoes for garden tours or running out for dining table cuttings on dewy grass. These I bought for myself and wore for a full summer of kid jaunts. They were the very first pair of shoes that I bought online, ever.

Fuchsia clogs. Newest pair, bought for everyday wear on rainy days before my everyday style changed. But they are lined, and waterproof, perfect for work on days when it’s still not blazing hot, or a run to the mailbox when the weather is wet.

They weren’t just a collection of shoes that I wear for one of the activities in my life that brings me joy, they are cherished, hard loved souvenirs.

All of them.

I circled the shoes like my favorite flower, the daisy, and took a picture. I took that picture and shared it on my social media so that my friends could see my beloved gear because that’s what I do: share what I love.

Not too much, just enough.