The guinea bird danced around gabbling at me, patience never being one of his virtues. Since I couldn’t remember when I last threw food out to him I was feeling a little guilty. As I was barefoot, I assure you I would not have done so otherwise, I shoved my feet into Hub’s much-loved bedroom moccasins. To my surprise I had to hobble out to cast some cracked corn about for the impatient foul.
I’m not sure of the expected life of the lining in fleece-lined shoes, though I suspect eight years exceeds the most liberal forecast. The insoles of Hubster’s slippers felt like the dingle berry end of an ancient ill-kept ewe must feel, like walking shoeless on lima bean sized river rocks.
Years ago when these shoes I had on my feet emerged from under the Christmas tree, they were comfortable fleeced-lined mocs. Contrary to Hub’s usual approach of eyeing a gift with suspicion, he jettisoned whatever he had on his feet and ensconced his tootsies into this new plushness. Two other pair of similar footwear I had trotted out for his perusal over the years never made it out of their boxes. Hubs exclaimed -something he never does- “these were the best present I’ve ever gotten!”
In the ensuing years, when he is home and when the ambient temperature is less than seventy degrees rest assured he will be shod in these sorry slippers. They stand at the ready next to his side of the bed to protect his tender toes from ever coming in contact with the floor and by the garage door for him to don before doing his equivalent of, Honey I’m home at night.
Like any good dutiful wife, I kicked off the repulsive footwear and made my way straight to the L. L. Bean website where I placed an order for an upgrade. To find the correct identifying number necessitated that I revisit the shoes once more. God forbid I order the wrong pair! My plan, formulated over years of living with the man, was a surreptitious replacement of the new with the old. The old boy doesn’t cotton to change and isn’t the quickest to notice. Confident that I had the exact right pair in the exact right size and color, I clicked the buy button and waited for them to arrive at my door by the end of the week.
On Friday night, home late from work wearing his slippers, he placed the mail on the counter. Busy with putting the finishing touches on an over-cooked dinner and a bad case of the hangries, the idea of replacing one for the other right then was beyond me. I said, “The box is for you.” We had to go through the whole explanation of no it’s got your name is on it. I ordered it for you rigmarole before he opened the package.
After tearing into the package, he plucked a shoe from its box like he was handling a snake. I presumed he held the offending item away from him so it wouldn’t strike. “What are these?”
Fighting the urge to snarl, “What does it look like?” Late for dinner and low blood sugar brings out my worst qualities. In my most controlled and dulcet voice, I managed, “I thought you might like a new pair.”
He looked down at his feet as if I had insulted a dear friend and raced to their defense, “I don’t need new ones. These are still good.”
I kicked myself for thinking even for a minute that my husband was capable of acting like a normal human being when confronted with a gift.
“Can I keep these for outside?” He pleaded for his old friends like he was appealing to the governor for a stay of execution. I did my best not to cut my finger off and his head as I chopped parsley.
“No, you already have outside more than covered. Why don’t you try the new ones on?”
At the dinner table, he sat and removed one old slipper. He pushed the placemat and cutlery out his way, placing the old shoe beside a new one he proceeded to examine them comparing them like he was all of a sudden quality control wonk.
“It’s just a shoe!”
In the interim between the two purchases, the manufacturers had the audacity to change the pattern imprinted on the sole and oh-über-observant one noticed. “They aren’t the same.”
How he could tell is a wonder since most of the imprint had long worn away from the old pair. While I congratulated myself on saving my true love from a terrible tumble by buying him new kicks, I lamented that I failed to I stick to my original plan and just replace the old with the new. He would never have noticed.
Unable to suppress an exasperated eye roll, “Would you mind taking your shoes off the table and try the new ones on? Most horses are easier to shoe. Put them on!!!”
After repositioning his place setting in front of him, I put his dinner down. While he slipped his feet into the clean fluffy new shoes, I snatched the old things and tossed them in the trash. He was about to protest until he allowed himself to appreciate the fluffy softness enveloping his little piggies.
If it is true that becoming set in your ways only worsen with age, one of us will not reach our dotage. Boy, you are going to have to make friends with change.