In our hall closet lies a basket of hardly-ever-worn shoes, among other things such as board games, brooms, crutches, high school annuals and a video camera that stopped working before our third child was born. You know, one of those kind of closets. We all have them, don't try to pretend you don't. They may be in the form of a drawer or a purposefully placed Rubbermaid tote under your bed, in your garage or attic, but these places do exist. . . the place where memories and other things you have no idea what to do with go to die. Or at least just hang out for a while.
So in this basket resides one lone wine-colored Birkenstock. Just one. Although I attended college in the hotbed of Port Angeles (which hadn't even heard a whisper of Stephenie Meyer when I went there in the early 1990's) and the booming metropolis (I kid) of Ellensburg, I never was a real Birky-type girl. I didn't wear patchouli and weave my own clothing. I didn't only listen to vinyl and drink black coffee. Sure, those things were ok...in moderation. But it wasn't a lifestyle for me. I only wore the Birks because I thought they were cute and they were comfortable. And in Ellensburg, where I purchased them, anything goes when it comes to fashion trends so it's not as if I was breaking any sort of urban fashion code.
In other words, cowboys don't really care what you have on your feet as long as you aren't in a pen with a bunch of cattle.
Every year or so when I clean out this closet I look at that lone wine-colored Birkenstock and leave it be. All by itself. At the bottom of the wicker basket that holds winter boots and vacuum attachments (I told you it was a diverse closet).
I ask myself, "Do I need this shoe?" And, "Do I want this shoe?" These are, indeed, the cardinal questions one asks oneself while purging unnecessary items, no? And then I move on, leaving the shoe there to gather even more dust. For, I don't need this shoe - it doesn't even have a mate. But I want this shoe.
While trying to finish up my Bachelor's Degree, I worked at a deli (fine, let's just call it what it was, a gas station...that made sandwiches) in Ellensburg owned by a middle-aged Italian who went to college with my mother. Through a connection with another old friend of hers, I was handed this prestigious job when I needed it most - when I was put on academic probation for the first time (yes, I said first) and needed to start paying all of my own bills.
My job consisted of making sandwiches, veggie trays, stocking the self-serve area (this is where I learned all about machine-made frozen yogurt), cleaning bathrooms, cashiering and maintaining the flowers outside. My job did not have anything to do with the gas pumps. This was Ellensburg, in the mid 90's and girls didn't (and probably still don't) do that kind of work.
So there I worked, for just over 2 years as I struggled to finish college.
I saw celebrities pass through on their way to concerts at The Gorge (George Clinton came in and used our bathroom), friends travelling across the state, and family members I never knew I had would stop in to say "hi" to someone they "knew" who worked at the first deli (gas station) off I-90 smack dab in the middle of Washington State. For all it's unglamorousness, working there was a lot of fun and I was grateful for the employment because obviously with my stellar GPA (we won't even go there), I was going nowhere faster than you can say "giddyup." And people said that a lot in Ellensburg.
I bought my first pregnancy test at the drugstore down the street and slipped it into my backpack on my way to work. All day, I thought about taking it - if only to make my suspicion go away, but it never did. Finally, I'd had enough. The customers had slowed, as it was a weeknight, after Memorial Day Weekend, and not much traffic was known to come through on nights like that. My co-worker was busy watching Beavis and Butthead on the tiny countertop TV meant to keep us from goofing off too much on slow nights and I saw my opportunity.
It can't be.
Whitney bought me another test from the drugstore and came to see me at work. Because surely this one was faulty. I couldn't look - I held out the stick from the bottom of the bathroom stall and had her confirm what I knew it said - 2 lines, not 1 - you're pregnant!
I found out I was pregnant in a gas station (DELI!) bathroom in Ellensburg wearing wine-colored Birkenstocks.
My stomach churned. Which was a feeling I was becoming used to.
The next few months were a blur. Parents were told. A venue was secured. Deposits were made. Invitations were ordered. My life changed instantly. Brett and I were already engaged, planning on a spring wedding...now we were planning a fall wedding and a spring baby. Life would never be the same.
He sent me flowers before our wedding. A gorgeous bouquet like you see in the movies sent to work for me to enjoy. The card said, "To Mrs. Blankenship."
That was going to be me.
When my shift was over, I picked up the heavy vase of beautiful flowers and started walking out to my car - parked so far away it seemed like it took forever to get there - my wine-colored Birkenstocks slapping the hot, black pavement below my feet. I lifted the vase to set it on the roof so I could unlock my car and that's when it hit me.
That was more than just a passing feeling and ended up manifesting itself right on top of my wine-colored Birkenstocks in the middle of a gas station (DELI!) parking lot in Ellensburg.
So this is what it had come to? Me, pregnant, standing in a hot parking lot, in the middle of summer, a humongous vase of flowers on top of my car, back pack hanging off my shoulder and a Birkenstock full of vomit?
I can smile as I tell this story now, 14 years, 3 kids, 1 dog, 1 husband and 2 houses later. Parenthood has turned out to be the best job I've ever had - even if it did start out in a hot parking lot of a gas station (yes, a gas station) in the middle of nowhere.
You just never know...and I guess that's why I kind of want to keep that lone wine-colored Birkenstock in the bottom of the wicker basket in the hall closet.
Because I need it.