What we Inherit from our Yankee Kin

I'm yanking on my boots tonight to go for a walk in the clear night air when I realize my little brown suede boots are eight years old, as old as my daughter. I ordered them them from LL Bean the winter she was born because I would carry her when I walked, and I wanted boots with genuine rubber soles so I wouldn't slip with her. The boots look like new, though they've been everywhere and been neglected in the warm weather and never, ever sprayed with that stuff that turns suede into Naugahyde.

Out in the cold, clear air under the stars, I made my way slowly up and down the hill. I thought of my daughter when I could literally hold her close to my heart when she was a baby. She would watch everything and loved it all. So I believe because she seldom slept when we were outside together.

At that age, I used to have plenty of time to take her to see our uncle in the nursing home in Danbury. Uncle Bud was in his late 80s and stuck in a wheelchair as a result of a second severe stroke. (He bounced back 80 percent from the first one and was reading up on how to reclaim the other 20 percent when the second one struck him down, silencing and crippling him for the last ten years of his life.)

When I was a kid, he had shown me a pair of boots that he had gotten from LL Bean when he was a kid. He used to trap in small animals for their furs so he'd have spending money. These were the gum shoes he wore to get his future pocket change. When his son came along, he had sent the boots back to LL Bean to get new rubbers sewn to the shanks. When the grandson came along, he did the same thing.

So I grew up believing you wore things until they wore out and if they were any good they wouldn't wear out. Then you give them to the next ones in line. I thought that was cool and pretty respectable and profound, somehow. One pair of boots could last most of a century and be serviceable? Wow. I would wear my father's Woolrich jackets to school and feel connected to him and to that time in the past when my mother gave it to him for Christmas when they were first married. I would wear his old shirts on the weekend.

Yanking on my boots tonight, I realized how fast time moves, yet it moves not at all. I could feel the pressure of my daughter's new little head on my heart tonight. In my memory, I followed her gaze to the heavens and watched the trees sway in the wind as if I had never seen it before because it had never happened before. I wondered what a star was. It wasn't cold out at all. My daughter took care of my heart, and Bean took care of my feet.

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