A pair of ski boots sit on a shelf in my garage. They are wrapped in a white plastic bag to protect them from bugs and dust. They have been in and out of boxes countless times, wedged in corners, stacked and re-stacked between old college text books and extra paper towels. I will never wear these boots again. I haven't skied in at least ten years, have no idea if they fit anymore. I vaguely remember that they rubbed a spot on my ankle the last time I wore them.
Like my father, I have a deep sense of nostalgia, often applying more than appropriate meaning to things. My space-challenged house, and my decidedly un-nostalgic husband, have helped tame my instinct to save anything and everything in which I suspect I might be the slightest bit interested someday. These boots have been in and out of a donate pile many times. But I always phone in the last minute pardon.
The ski boots, white with accents of the bright colors popular with ski gear in the early 90s, were not always mine. They once belonged to my brother. I have very few things that belonged to him: an ID bracelet, the mezuzah he got for his bar mitzvah, his fraternity sweatshirt. A life cut so short does not accumulate much. I also have some things he gave me over the years, including a picture frame, the last birthday card he signed for me, and a few books.
My dad, who lives with my mom in my childhood home, surrounds himself with my brother's things. Billy's room has been partially transformed into a home office - it was important that we use the room - but the walls are still covered with his posters of skiiers on impossibly precarious ledges, advertising Scott's goggles and Warren Miller films. My father will occasionally wear my brother's clothes, literally wrapping himself in his memory.
My dad, despite my mom's pleas to clean and organize, refuses to throw out the contents of my brother's closet and dresser, including the socks and underwear that would have been replaced at least five times by now, had he survived. But how can you do that when each item in the drawer represents a choice my brother once made, a trip to Target when he decided that this particular package of tube socks would be his? He wore those socks, sweated in them, shed his skin cells, tied his shoes around them. Those same shoes that walked these halls and drove that car and now sit in that closet right there. The closet that belonged to him. These things meant nothing to him, but it is all we have.
The ski boots were Billy's first pair. He outgrew them quickly and handed them down to me, his older but smaller, sister. He just as quickly outgrew my ability to keep up with him on the slopes, leaving both me and those boots behind on the blue runs while he navigated tougher bumps and steeper grades in his new black boots. I can't help but feel he's done the same again, leaving me behind to snow plow my way through life one inch at a time.
And so, I'm afraid, the boots will remain forever in my garage. They will be stuffed and boxed, stacked and re-stacked, forever wedged between the extra paper towels and the memories of our times in the snow.