"Take a picture of my shoes, Mom," my 8-year old son said today as he slid his school tennis shoes off his feet and dropped them on the floor of our mudroom.
At first, my brain wasn't registering what he was asking me to do. I was slightly irritated and all I could see was yet another pair of shoes where they didn't belong. On the floor. Instead of in the closet.
I cannot trip over another pair of shoes. I will lose it.
But he continued, and begged, "Mooooommmmm, take a picture of my shoes!"
"Honey, why would I want to take a picture of your shoes?"
"Because 'member on the first day of school, you took a picture of our shoes all shiny and white? Now look at them."
As I looked down at the floor at the offensive sneakers, torn, dirty, and literally falling apart at the seams, I shelved my irritation and recognized beauty.
Yes, I said beauty.
I know, I know. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Stay with me on this one, people.
Today was the last day of school, and my children were triumphant as they threw their backpacks down for the last time until August 25, 2010. Triumph is not an emotion I often see at the end of the school day. The emotions I usually see are happy, sad, exhausted, cranky, and hungry, among others, but true looks of triumph are few and far between.
Except for today.
These stinky shoes, whose proper home is now a garbage can, instead of the closet, represent triumph. My son saw this, and through him, I was able to see it.
My children attend Catholic school, and as a part of the school uniform, they are required to wear white, or mostly white tennis shoes. Therefore, they wear the exact same shoes for the entire 180-day school year. These shoes have seen every single day of the second grade. Every gym class. Every recess. Every test. Every time he timidly got up in front of the class to speak. Every time he walked solemnly with his class to Mass. Every step as he walked to introduce himself to someone and made a new friend. Every climb up the monkey bars. Every trip to the drinking fountain. Every time he absentmindedly shuffled his feet on the floor while deep in thought on a math test.
Every. moment. of. the. entire. school. year.
The school year, which, coincidentally, happened to fly by way too fast. The way I see it, on a sunny day at the end of August, 2009, I dropped my 7 and 8-year old sons off at school for the first day of a fresh, new school year. My boys had backpacks full of unspoiled school supplies, and an eagerness to start the second and third grades, respectively.
Then suddenly I turned around, and it is June.
And now, here I am with 8 and 9-year old sons who have yet another school year under their belts, and the wisdom that goes with it. They are proud. They have bragging rights.
I am proud.
My oldest son had white tennis shoes which unfortunately did not make it to the end of the school year. The sole fell of one of them on a cold, rainy day in March. I remember the rain because he complained the whole car ride home about how wet his socks were where the majority of the sole had once been.
Here are both pairs of shoes, in all their perfect, blindingly white glory on the first day of school in August, 2009.
I prefer the dirtier pair. They tell a much better story.
Happy Summer Vacation.