Valeria’s boots, in my book, Valeria & The Enemy of Time, are like a minor character in the story. They appear just before she needs them, and they stick with her all the way through. Her boots almost seem magical, the way they fit her so perfectly with their buttery-soft leather, and being useful to hide daggers and kick wild dogs.
When I was a kid, did I have boots like that? Alas, I did not. Here is what I knew about boots when I was young.
There were cowboy boots. My two sisters had cowboy boots because they rode horses. You can see how I felt about horses here. I assumed they were pointy-toes so that you could slide them into the stirrups, sort of like threading a needle, or maybe throwing darts at the bullseye. I didn’t especially find the fancy stitching patterns pretty, and they looked very uncomfortable to me, since my feet and toes were all squared off at the ends and not pointy.
There were work boots with rubber or cleated soles. Otherwise known as “Red Wings.” My dad wore high-top laced Red Wing boots all the time because he was a beekeeper. He was on his feet a lot, and he needed high tops so he could tie up the bottoms of his coveralls around his shoes, to keep the crawling bees out of his clothes. My mother wore Red Wings too, since she also a beekeeper, was on her feet a whole lot, and needed to tie off her coverall pant legs too. At some point I also had lace-up leather work boots, but not Red Wings. I remember a lot of times, trying to make my coveralls stay tied around my ankles, where some not-quite-high-enough boots fell short. My sisters wore cowboy boots. Of course.
There were rubber galoshes-type rain boots. Always second-hand. And always leaked.
And my very best, very favorite boots of all time—white “go-go boots.”
I was in third grade, around 1965, and to get brand-new shoes or clothes, not hand-me-downs, was amazing. Especially something as fashionable and probably expensive as go-go boots. (dreamy-eyed nostalgia happening right now) The were white, ankle-high with short little heels, and zipped up the back. Alas, even before I outgrew them, I broke them. One school morning, I slipped on the kitchen floor, fell on the open oven door (not turned on). I broke the hinge on the oven door and broke one heel off. I am sure I cried, and I remember asking if Mom couldn’t nail the heel back on. Nope. And that was that.
I have never been as interested in fashion as in comfort. I have required my shoes (and clothes) to be comfortable and not fussy, scratchy or squeezy. A few years ago, I started obsessing about getting some boots, but I could never find the ones I saw in my mind’s eye. The closest I came was seeing the handmade leather boots on medieval reenactors’ feet, with their supple leather, flat heels, and simple designs. I did need boots that would accommodate my orthotics, my shoe inserts, another complication. A couple years ago, I did find some in a store in Morro Bay that fit the bill pretty closely, which you see in the photo at the top of the page.
When I was writing about Valeria, I tried to incorporate Italy into her clues, and since Italy is well-known for well-made shoes, it all came together. So perhaps I did put together everything I knew personally and have felt about boots, and they came out as Valeria’s leather boots, some footwear that I can say definitively I would also have adored as a kid.