During my childhood, certain happenings signaled the start of summer. My father – a teacher – would start to sing, “The 25th of June. It cannot come too soon.” Our charcoal barbecue would make its way out of the shed to its summer home near the picnic table. And my mother would take us to Hiltz’s Shoe Store to buy summer sandals.
The store may have carried a full range of sandals, but my mother consistently steered us to the practical, comfortable and sturdy double-buckle sandal made by Savage. We were given a choice: navy or tan (after all, white would only show the dirt and any other colour would be impractical). Summer after summer, we returned to Hiltz’s to buy the exact same sandals – next size up.
While I envied my friends whose parents bought them less practical and more fashionable sandals, the routine was oddly satisfying. I’d slide my foot into the metal shoe measure and wait for the “shoe lady” or “shoe man” to announce my size (there was something gratifying about knowing I’d graduated a shoe size).
Once I’d been fitted and the sandals paid for, the clerk would inevitably ask, “Do you want to wear your new sandals home?” The answer was always yes, old shoes thrown into a bag in favour of fresh, albeit practical, sandals.
Those sandals, in all their practicality, withstood the tests of summer - water fights, soccer baseball games, endless rounds of hide-and-seek and trips to the beach. At summer's end, when the trendy sandals of my friends had likely been relegated to the trash, mine stood strong, never even betraying the dirt of their many adventures.
The signs of summer have changed since then. My dad, 20 years retired, has also long since retired his end-of-the-school-year song (although could likely be convinced to bring it back for the grandkids). Charcoal barbecues are a rarity, having moved over for propane. And sandal shopping at Hiltz's Shoe Store is a distant and fond memory.
Still, something about the newness and promise of summer always remains the same. Come to think of it, I could use a new pair of sandals. Maybe something sturdy and practical - in navy or tan.