From Cowboy Boots to Frye Boots. Writing Through Grief.
WRITING THROUGH GRIEF IS A NEW BLOG POST SERIES. THIS IS MY HONEST RECOUNT OF MY GRIEF AT THE LOSS OF LONNIE WHO PASSED SATURDAY, JANUARY 16, 2021. THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE READ DEAR UNIVERSE, I GET IT NOW, WILL KNOW SHE’S BEEN THERE FROM THE BEGINNING. THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW ME PERSONALLY WILL KNOW SHE WAS MY SECOND MOTHER.
March 2021 | Just shy of 36 years old – Boots, Boots, Boots
Bruce asked me to help him go through Lonnie’s clothes. Their church had a wonderful thrift store attached. We knew that Lonnie would have wanted her clothes brought there so someone in need could have a chance at them. That was just like her.
I remember there always being a jar or milk carton piggy bank on the center of the dining room table collecting spare coin for whatever charity was aligned with the most recent church or Emmaus mission. And the last week she was alive she was fixated on how to transfer her unused track phone minutes to someone who could use them. To ease her worries of those minutes going to waste, I told her we would recycle her phones and ask they be donated to one of those programs that provide old phones to survivors of domestic violence which Verizon had done at one time or another. I wasn’t sure if they still did, but it was just the thing to put her mind at ease about this little detail that was ailing her in her last days.
She wanted so desperately in those last six months to have all affairs in order. I knew that the stuff she had failed to think about that was now cropping up in her final hours was causing her distress. With no control over death, she wanted to control track phone minutes. That made sense to me as much as it pained me to watch – helpless to change a damn thing.
So going through her clothes and ensuring they made it to the church thrift was the exact thing she would want even if that hadn’t made it onto my list of instructions for what to do after. Surprisingly, Bruce and I didn’t fall apart going through the closet or the stack of freshly folded clothes near the window. Her last items to have been washed and dried that I had folded the last time I was there.
There were several smiles as we remembered particular fashion phases over the last thirty or so years. And a handful of laughs as something came out from way in the back of the closet that was so 80s, so loud, so obnoxious that we couldn’t help ourselves. Of course my look of, “Hell no,” when Bruce would ask me if I wanted it, also set off a bubble of chuckles between us.
There were so many wonderful things, too, and I certainly did end up with my fair share of Lonnie wearables to bring home. A pair of old, wool, blue knit mittens that I remembered her wearing to go outside with us kids when I was no more than three. It was remarkable that she still had them and they didn’t have a single hole. Her pair of slip-on house clogs, the black wool ones that she always wore. A long denim coat with pockets. Two
pairs of awesome cowboy boots. But the motherload of finds that had me erupting into genuine fits of joy was the pair of knee-high, leather lace-up boots, that we discovered stowed away on the floor in the back of the closet. (Opposite the blast from the 80s.)
Who knew the last time they had seen the light of day, shoved all the way back there. They had dust on the toes and the laces were removed. But they were still in excellent condition. And I could tell that leather was real.
“Oh my gosh,” Bruce said taking one from my hand and inspecting it. “I bought these for Lonnie in 1975 when we first moved here. There was this shoe store in Burlington that she loved…” he paused to try to recall the name. “It was right there on the corner…I can picture it but now I can’t remember the name.”
I had a vague recollection of that store, too.
1997 | 12 years old – My First Cowboy Boots
Lonnie took me to Burlington for a special trip. She was going to buy me my first pair of cowboy boots. This was the first time I learned about Frye boots and how much Lonnie adored them. Frye boots were the best of the best.
Frye boots were genuine leather. Frye boots were sturdy. Frye boots were durable. They were also super expensive. Which only added to their appeal. I don’t remember now if that first pair of cowboy boots she bought me or even the second (that she bought me in my adulthood after my feet stopped growing) were Frye’s but I won’t ever forget how we talked about them that day at the store. The mission for that day was cowboy boots. Period.
We had been going together every week for line dancing lessons. This self-care activity had been encouraged by the doctors after she was through the worst of the chemo and had the strength and energy to do so. This old manor one small town over, held line dancing every Wednesday. I was Lonnie’s date and probably the youngest there. I don’t remember anyone younger than 30.
This was my country music phase and with Lonnie, we had seen LeAnn Rimes in concert when she had made the song Blue popular, and John Michael Montgomery who was one of my favorites. (I mean, those dimples.) I used to sing Sold on repeat. (And just to test my memory, I saw if I still remembered all the words when I wrote this post. I do.) We got caught in the rain at the end of that concert and I remember trying to take my
wet clothes off in the dark in the field where we parked before I got into the car. Just as I was about through, the car in front of us turned its lights on and offered me a spotlight in my underwear. We laughed for several minutes on our way out of there.
As someone who wasn’t much into sports and didn’t consider myself an athlete, going dancing each week seemed more my speed. Even if I had quit traditional dance at five when I messed up Twinkle, Twinkle at a dance recital. Those were precious evenings with Lonnie. I hadn’t needed to go to her house after school anymore by then, so the weekly dance nights were a promised evening together. And together we learned The Boot Scootin’ Boogie and Slappin’ Leather among others.
When my Dad won citizen of the year, we kids were each asked if we would do something special for the evening. We decided we would surprise him with the Boot Scoot and present him with his own cowboy hat and lanyard and drag him onto the dance floor in front of everyone. Since my Dad is a really good sport and not afraid to be the center of attention, it worked. I got to dress up and looked (I thought at the time) like a real cowgirl, complete with that first pair of black and brown, genuine leather pair of boots Lonnie had bought me in that shop in Burlington.
2019 | 34 years old – Celebratory Frye Boots
I was weeks away from walking out of my day job right there in Burlington, kiddy-corner from the shoe store that used to be the one Lonnie had taken me to all the years before. It was still a shoe store but not the one it had been. Still, I loved the nostalgia of going to that particular location and I certainly loved the shoes.
Every summer, Burlington would have a sidewalk sale and I would always go and see what the shoe store had, hoping I might get lucky and a pair of Frye boots would be marked down. It was never the case or never that they were marked down enough.
But then, just a few weeks away from walking out into entrepreneurial life, after months of planning and working after hours of my day job, I knew I needed to do something to celebrate. My business coach was asking me what I was going to treat myself to, always encouraging me to celebrate my successes and also trying to instill in me an abundance mindset. Then one day it hit me.
On my very last day, I would walk out of the office and across the street to the shoe store and splurge on my own Frye boots as a symbol of the rugged journey I had been on to choose the finer things in life and to go after a rich and full life. Buying Frye boots on my own seemed a pretty epic action to take, knowing I would spend a minimum of $300 without batting an eye. That was a lot for me outside of the normal budget so it felt wild and wicked and liberating.
And it was the most glorious feeling. On that last day, I was bubbling with anticipation of walking out and never coming back to that office. I could not wait to head over to the shoe store and deflate into the cushion and carefully select and try on my first self-purchased Frye boots. The Universe was on my side that day and they were on sale. Not only did I snatch them up immediately, but I also put them on and stored my old footwear in their box. I walked out of that store and over to the bar for celebratory drinks with my new Frye boots on.
Every time I see these boots in my closet or put them on, the same feeling of strength and liberation is returned. I am so proud of my actions and of purchasing these boots.
March 2021 | Just shy of 36 years old – Frye boots c.1975
We check with Lonnie’s daughter to make sure that she doesn’t want any of the footwear before I officially claim all three pairs of boots we’ve scored from the closet. I put each on to make sure they fit. I figure
d they would as Lonnie and I had always had the same foot size. But I wanted to make sure.
Those tall knee-high beauties slid right on and I couldn’t wait to take them to a cobber to double-check their soles and determine laces. While Bruce took the computer to try to recall the name of the store, I inspected the boots more carefully, looking for any ware and tare. As I turned them over in my hands and peered on the inside, I found a stamp.
I hollered out loud. “Oh my God! Bruce! These are FRYES!”
“That’s it. I knew they were a certain type of boot. Lonnie loved them.”
I did a happy dance in the middle of the hall. “I can’t believe we found Fryes in your closet!”
“She loved those boots. Yup, I can still remember buying them for her.”
I hugged them to my chest. An early birthday present from my Lonnie and I couldn’t think of a better one.
April 2021 | 36 years old – Frye boots c.1975 & 2021
I took those boots to the cobbler a couple of weeks later. It was like I handed over gold.
“Hey… hey, come look at these,” one cobbler said to the other tinkering in the back as I looked on.
Together they huddled over the boots, touching them gently. “Look at these soles … they’re nailed and they’re stitched all the
way around…” They talked softly with raised eyebrows and a look of wonder.
I really did have a pair of leather gems.
“These are in fantastic condition,” the first one said to me.
“Is there anything they need?” I asked ready to drop down any money.
“We can condition them for you, but the soles look terrific, and there’s no other obvious ware and tare.”
I paid for the conditioning and left them, but was on my own for the laces. They didn’t have anything long enough. I did what anyone does and took to the internet and ordered the longest laces I could possibly find and waited for them to arrive.
Meanwhile, my birthday came, and my sweet companion took me shopping. This we had planned for a few weeks when he asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and what I wanted as a present. Not knowing about the treasure I would find at Lonnie’s, I had said a pair of Frye boots, ankle height. So we ended up at
that little shoe store on the corner and I ended up with another pair of Frye boots.
I love the smell of genuine leather as much as I love the smell of a new book. I love the feel of it as much as I love the feel of a new book. I love my Frye boots because of what they symbolize to me but also what and who they remind me of. I’ll cherish them always and wear them proudly.
Those laces came in the other day and while it took a minute to get those c.1975 books all done up, they were a beautiful final restoration. I can’t wait for the perfect (non-rainy) weather to wear them in. But it will definitely be a day, I’m not going to buy another pair of shoes because once these ladies go on, they’re not coming off.