I don’t consider myself a hoarder and enjoy an annual closet clean out and trip to goodwill. Over the past few years I have noticed that there are two items in my closet that I refuse to part with, regardless of how much wear and tear they have seen.
I lived in Buenos Aires in 2007 during my Junior year of college for six months. During that period I bought several items of clothing to both attempt to be as cool as the locals and due to the fact that I needed new clothes after having gained fifteen pounds. Frequent steak and malbec dinners, snacks of empanadas, and regular trips to one of the several gelato chains will do that to anyone. The fun shirts to wear out dancing and even the jeans from the jean store my mom still raves about have long been given away. The two items I cannot part with are my black wool coat and black leather boots.
These items were both bought near the end of my trip, when I was cold, fatter, and frequently homesick. Nobody anticipated it to snow in Buenos Aires, but it did in fact snow there for the first time in several years. This resulted in an impulse shopping trip for a jacket, having failed to bring any warm clothes despite my general over-preparedness for trips. This coat is black, wool, and fitted with toggle buttons, but it isn’t particularly warm or special. Still, I frequently get comments on it and love telling people it’s from Buenos Aires. I have worn it in pictures from Buenos Aires to New York and all sorts of events over the years. Its nubby and faded, but filled with memories.
My mom, sister, aunt, and cousin visited during this cold and snowy time in Buenos Aires. They fell in love with the city and lifestyle and we enjoyed leisurely afternoons wandering around the city and into the cute (and very affordable) boutiques. I had one item in mind that I was searching for, a pair of leather Argentine boots. I spent their entire visit searching for these. My cousin is a buyer at a shoe brand and my sister, mom, and aunt are some of the most fashionable people I know. They pulled boots and boots off the shelf, but I was being unusually picky.
On their last day in Argentina it was snowy and dark out and after our usual big lunch filled with wine and multiple courses we strolled through the boutiques for a last time. I was feeling like I was about to be abandoned and had such a feeling of panic. Having someone visit you in a foreign land and then leave you can be an awful feeling. My family calls it the “camp visiting day” syndrome, as we used to have that ache in our stomachs when our parents would leave after visiting us at sleep away camp.
My sister was insistent on finding me some boots and picked out a classic black pair that I did not love all that much, but at that point I decided it didn’t really matter and I would probably wear them. I decided to wear them for the rest of the day and was just starting to like them. I continued to walk around wanting to savor every last minute with my visitors, but having a tough time pulling myself out of my sad mood. The last straw came when I was crossing a busy intersection in my brand new boots with no traction. The next thing I knew I was laying in a shallow gutter. My sister had a horrified smirk on her face, but I think my family all suspected that a breakdown was imminent. I pulled myself out of the gutter and began sobbing on the street. I was probably receiving mortified stairs at the skinny cool Argentine women strolled by effortlessly (none of them fell in the gutter). I have a memory of my family huddling around me and rubbing my back. My aunt comforted me with stories about how when she would visit my other cousin in London and then leave, my cousin would also have irrational breakdowns. That made me feel slightly less crazy, although did not change the fact that I had to return to my homestay when my family was going back to their comfortable homes in the United States.
I cannot remember how I recovered from my breakdown, I think it involved my best friend in the world (who I met in Argentina) laughing at my drama or complimenting my new boots over yet more malbec and steak.
Since I got back from Argentina I have had my boots repaired three times and the lining of my coat replaced once. These repairs have certainly added up to more than either item initially cost, but I just can’t let them go. In fact, before I discovered the wonders of shoe repair shops I pulled my boots off and when they ripped I broke out in tears, trying to explain to Shaun that these were my Argentina boots.
Don’t get me wrong, the boots and coats are wonderful, but I don’t know if they warrant hundreds of dollars in repair. I think it is because these items are the last relics I have left of my life in Buenos Aires. I do have pictures that hang in my bedroom and a ring, but there is something special about these items because they were in my daily life in Buenos Aires. When I put on my boots and coat I can be Buenos Aires Phoebe whose job was simply to have fun, make friends, and go on adventures in South America. Today I discovered a new shoe repair shop in my neighborhood that made my boots look like new. At this rate I may just spend enough money repairing these over the years to be able to pass them onto my daughter one day.