Sunday in the Park |

Sunday in the Park

Jenny Knaak, Record guest columnist

I am an emotional creature. I’m an early-July Cancer, and we astrological crustaceans are a notoriously emotional bunch. I’m the type that cries at commercials I’ve seen a dozen times. And at awards shows. And cheesy movies with predictable endings from B-level cable channels. I’m an embarrassment to myself.

As I was recently headed to work, I saw something that made my jaw drop open, and an audible gasp escape from my mouth.

The Shoe Trees were gone.

Pairs of shoes, tied together, hanging from tree branches – sometimes five or six pairs per branch. They could be seen from Deer Valley Drive, boughs extended over the bike path, between Main Street and City Park. You must have seen them – strung with sneakers, sandals, stilettos, slippers, even ski boots. Years and years worth of discarded soles, dangling, beckoning to anyone curious and adventurous enough to sacrifice their shoes with wild abandon.

They were gone. Well, not completely – the trunks were still there, and some of the branches. They hadn’t been removed, just pruned with extreme prejudice. I was shocked. I was thankful no one was in my car with me to witness the emotional outburst. I pulled into the nearest parking structure and cried. Just a little. Because, although they weren’t recognized on any official tour, I felt those trees were a quirky and quiet touchstone of this town. (My "day" job includes entertaining and shuttling-about some out-of-town performing artists, and every time we passed the Shoe Trees, my visitors asked "Are those SHOES?") I regretted missing my chance to join the countless others who united in recklessness and nunchucked their shoes into one of those trees.

Oh, regret. Wishing I had done it – whatever "it" might be – is one of the worst feelings. There are some events from my past that may cause me some embarrassment, but nothing makes my shoulders hang quite so low as the Thing I Regret NOT Doing. Because for me, at least the outrageous, crazy things I’ve done, I chose to do. Thinking about something I meant to do, wanted to do, but didn’t, filled me with an overwhelming sense of dismay.

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I always wondered why people threw their shoes in the tree. How did it start? Was a little kid trying to get rid of some uncomfortable footwear, and tossed them up there, effectively "losing" his shoes? Could it have been a game of keep-away between friends that went too far? Was it some rite-of-passage with a certain sect – silly and strange, but decidedly less destructive than mailbox baseball? Surely the trees’ location, not far from Main Street, beckoned to wayward drunkels (as in Drunk as a Skunk). No doubt it became a meeting place, public but with privacy. Mostly, I bet, people (like me) saw something they didn’t understand but wanted to be part of nonetheless, and they tossed a pair of shoes up there, just because.

Driving to work the next day, I wrestled with my emotions. I should look – remind myself what I missed. But then I would feel sad and regretful. Should I or shouldn’t I? It might be better to just drive with my eyes straight ahead. Or maybe I should just pull up my Big Girl Boots, and look. With angst tightening in my chest, I drove around the bend and faced my disappointment head-on.

LO! BEHOLD! The trees weren’t gone after all. They were just a bit farther from Main Street than I had remembered. Beyond them, a hundred yards up the bike path, were the severely pruned trees I’d seen the day before. Those cut branches, which yesterday had represented an unfulfilled dream, now made me feel positively euphoric.

I had been a complete idiot. Hurray! I felt such delight in my own stupidity.

I nearly pulled over to toss my shoes skyward right then. A couple of things stopped me.

One – I had one pair of shoes in the car, and they were on my feet.

Two – I was wearing knee-high boots. Without laces, how would they stay together as a pair, and dangle from a branch, like the others?

Three – I wasn’t sure these were the right shoes. What kind of statement did I want to make with my Shoe Tree addition? Should they be new, or used beyond structural recognition? Hmm. I had some decisions to make.

I had let my emotions get the better of me, and make me feel like a fool. I wasted an entire day, fraught with much-loathed regret. But not for nothing. I’ve decided to let my Shoe Tree debacle guide me – to remind this emotional creature about missed opportunities. If I want to do it, and mean to do it, then I should do it right away, today, or Sunday, in the Park.

Jenny Knaak, guest columnist, is the daughter of Teri Orr, the customary author of "Sunday in The Park."