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Essays by Karen Anderson: To Last

Illustration by Kacie Brown

To Last

The shoe repairman glances up as I walk into his tiny shop.

“I’m having my kitchen remodeled,” I say, “and when the guys pulled the cabinets off the walls, they found this in the rafters.” I haul a leather boot out of my backpack. “I’m hoping you can tell me something about it.”

“It’s old,” he says with a half-smile. “Fifty years, at least. Star brand or Wolverine.” He turns the boot upside down where it has been re-soled and re-heeled, rather crudely.

“Did those repairs himself,” the man says. “Everybody had their own last.” I don’t know what he means. “L-A-S-T,” he says and points to the metal form of an upside-down foot anchored to his bench.

“But don’t you wonder how the boot got into the rafters?” I ask. The repairman isn’t interested in that part of the story. He is showing me some old lasts on a shelf, attached to stumps.

“Used them to last a shoe,” he says, turning the word into a verb.

I think about how people used to try hard to last things.

Today, almost everything is disposable. And I leave his shop wishing we could last more of what we have—boots, clothes, computers, friendships, marriages, life.

All of it.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.