It was that time of year again, when my daughter had went through yet another pair of her favorite cleats. This time they were Boombah, in royal and orange to match her travel team colors. Seemed like just yesterday she had picked them out, super excited the day that they came in. Now, older she traded them in for a pair of unimpressive and plain black Mizuno cleats that would simply blend in with her uniform.
The once molded soles were flat and slippery, and the laces were permanently tied into multiple double and triple knots that had been bound together, cemented really – with a years worth of dirt and muck and brickdust. They hadn’t been untied or re-tied in months, maybe even since the first day she got them, proof of her OCD’ness when it comes to her shoes and laces. She had been slipping them on and off her feet for months.
As she tossed them on top of the trash can, the insides dry rotted from months of hot and wet sweat and wet grass, the outside colors almost unrecognizable, I had a flash back to her sitting in a fold up chair with a dirt stain across her forehead, at the ballfields getting ready to go warm up for yet another game, smooshing and wiggling her feet into those cleats, me asking her for the millionth time to please untie them and re-tie them tight so that they would actually support her feet and ankles, only to be ignored.
Those cleats now sitting on top of the trash can, were the cleats that she was wearing the first time (and probably the last time) she made an unassisted triple play. Those cleats were the ones she was wearing the day her hitting slump ended and she one hopped the fence to force a game winning RBI. Those cleats were the ones she had stolen bases in, that had carried her safely to first base and beyond more times than I could count. Those were the same cleats she was wearing during the last tournament of our season when she ran into a defensive player three times her size and ended up in the ER with a fracture in her knee.
Those cleats were the ones that we didn’t allow to ride in the interior of the truck with us on our way home from games because of the smell, that she stored in the garage because she didn’t want them funking up her closet. Those were the cleats even the dog wouldn’t chew because they smelled (and obviously tasted) so bad. Those cleats were the most well worn pair of shoes she owned. At the end of the day her feet would be sore and tired from those cleats, from standing on the hard dirt all day, playing this game. When the day was over, the first thing to come off, even before leaving the dugout for the last time, was those cleats.
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And now, they were sitting on top of the trash, like some piece of garbage to be tossed away.
I should have been thankful really. Finally, she was getting rid of those ratchet nasty cleats. But all day as I passed them in the trash can, I continued having flashbacks to all the days she has worn them, the places and different fields and states that those cleats had traveled. The times we have almost left them behind, the days her little feet have battled away for hours, he friends she has made wearing those cleats, the numerous times I have complained about how awful they looked, or smelled….
I have already watched two daughters hang up cleats, toss them aside – never to wear them again. Oh, how I wish I still saw their cleats in the garage -just sitting there, patiently waiting to be worn. Waiting for Game day. How I wish I had not thrown them away in the trash.
Those cleats, I took out of the trash, and they now sit in my hope chest. Wrapped in a Walmart bag, the shoelaces still tied up in some stupid knots, dust and dirt falling off of them anytime they are moved. Those orange and blue cleats, sit with the report cards, and the outfits my girls wore home from the hospital, and the pictures and the cards and the jerseys and other mementos of my kids’ childhoods, now always and forever there to commemorate the thousands of hours my daughter has spent in those cleats. Sure, they are worn out and tattered. Yes, she has a new pair now. Agreed, they are just shoes. Stinky ones at that.
But it is in those cleats, that my daughter has lost herself and found herself a hundred times over, that she has learned when to walk and when to run, that she learned to trust her hands and her heart, that she learned the true meaning of friendships, and that the undying passion and love for a game that has been a huge part of growing her into the young fierce woman she is today, was first sprouted beneath her feet, wearing those cleats. And that is something I am just not ready to throw away….