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During the winter of 1993 I took a small trip to Europe. I had just turned 21 and heady with the possibilities of the future and the newfound freedom of a young woman, a friend and I decided to experience New Years in Austria.

We stayed in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. The weather was bitter. Ice shards hung from street lamp posts and cast a yellow glow on the snowy streets. We were drunk on our perceived autonomy and we fiercely clung to our newly formed convictions.

We met a rag tag group of youths from Austria, Switzerland and Italy. We argued our theories on politics late into the night, neither side wavering. During the day, we hitched rides through the mountains and hiked the city streets for the cheapest student bars and restaurants.

One day my friend and I decided to buy proper hiking boots for our upcoming stay in Ascona, a tiny town nestled in the Swiss Alps, bordering Italy. We combed the city streets and found a charming shoe vendor who closely resembled a 17th century shoe cobbler.

I was excited to get a proper pair of hiking boots made in Austria. I was convinced my authentic boots would last a lifetime. I remember paying a small fortune: $69USD. I splurged my $50 per diem travel budget for those boots.

Through the years I’ve used these boots for every outdoor hiking, exploratory expedition I’ve ever had. They’ve revisited Europe, traveled to Alaska, the Smokey Mountains, Napa Valley, and even Ogunquit, Maine. I’ve used them to lay tile, bike ride and, in a forgettable moment, as a fashion statement.

This winter I dug them out of my garage and packed them once again for my trip to North Carolina. My daughters looked at them with brief interest and quickly informed me I should throw them out. Clearly the gravity of their suggestions was lost to them.

Nearly 16 years later, my frivolous boots, purchased from an Austrian shoe cobbler, came undone. After a family hike, these boots that traveled hundreds of miles, were set to rest. A proper demise for faithful companions.

West Jefferson, North Carolina

December 29, 2009

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