Who is David Freeman?
I’ll tell you who he is. He’s the chump that got new boots. I got his old ones. Let me explain.
I was about 8 or 9 years old.
At the end of summer, my mother would line all of us kids up in the basement beside the barrel. The barrel was an old… barrel… that my father had brought home from work. I think it was used to store pharmaceutical ingredients and when empty obviously made for good storage. The drum had a tight-fitting lid. It’s where my mother stored all of our clothes that were out of season.
Most of the seven of us stood in line as my mother unloaded the barrel, taking each piece of clothing out and sizing it up down the line of children to see who was going to fit into what that year. I waited my turn anxiously hoping that I might fit into some of my older sister’s clothes. She was always so much cooler than me. Sometimes my mother pulled out a clothing item I prayed would not fit. The pair of bright orange polyester pants was one of them. Even though they had white swirly stitching on the pocket and a thick white stitch down the legs, I imagine replicating the stitching on jeans, they were definitely not blue jeans. Not in any sense of the word.
Around the same time of year, my father would bring home bags of clothes from people he worked with, hand me downs from their children. Those garbage bags, filled with what we considered new clothes, were as good as shopping at Sears. It was very exciting to go through them.
It’s not that we were poor. We just weren’t the Rockefeller’s. I knew that because my father reminded us all the time.
“Who do you think I am? Rockefeller?”
I didn’t know who the Rockefeller’s were but I imagined they had enough money for pop from The Pop Shoppe. I bet they had a car too. We didn’t have one. We walked or bussed it, all nine of us.
My father worked hard all his life to keep a family of nine afloat.
There wasn’t a lot of money kicking around but we ate really well and were always warm. My mother was an expert cook and baker and I’m sure could have opened up her own bakery. I never noticed that money was low. We lived simply. We always had the essentials. That’s all you need. My happiest memories of childhood did not involve anything monetary or lavish. My happiest memories were simple ones doing simple things with people I cared about.
Anyway, this one winter when I was 8 or 9 years old, it snowed like crazy overnight. Each of us went down the basement to get our boots before school. My sister’s boots had a tear in them and she had just got a pair of knee boots. You remember the ones? They went up to the knee with a side zipper. They were so snazzy. They weren’t the” go go” boots that were the latest craze but they were close. Her old boots were thrown out.
My boots didn’t fit. My feet were too big, no matter how hard I tried to jam them inside.
I was running late for school. My mother wouldn’t let me out the door in my running shoes. The only boots left had come out of the latest bag of clothes sent from my Dad’s co-worker. The David Freeman Boots.
My mother sent me back in the basement to retrieve them. The boots glared at me in the dark by the old wash sinks. They were big and brown with two buckles on them. Inside each boot, in black magic marker, in bold letters, was the name; DAVID FREEMAN.
I estimate Mr. Freeman to be about 16- 18 years old. My guess; he had a size 9 or 10 men’s foot.
I was 8 or 9 years old. I was probably a size 4 children’s shoe.
There was no arguing with Mom. She handed me two bread bags to put over my socks first to keep the wet snow out, and then instructed me to buckle the boots on tight.
That is how I walked to school that first snowy day.
My feet flopped with every step I took. I tripped over them, stepping on the flap of a boot toe with every push forward through the snow. I looked around me and over my shoulder, hoping no one could see me in these gigantic men’s boots. I did not walk on the sidewalk that day. I walked in the deepest snow banks all the way, to hide my feet. One step forward and then I would plunge deep into the drifted snow, tripping again and falling face first. I got up, brushed myself off and fell face first again with the next step.
As I approached the school, much to my dismay, the entrance area had been shoveled. I would be exposed.
I glanced down at my brown buckled duck feet and bolstered up some courage.
The bell rang and the other students scurried inside. I took my time and straggled my way inside, reaching an almost empty hallway by the time I entered the school. Eddie arrived around the same time and didn’t even notice my feet. Then again, Eddie liked to sniff school glue.
I took my boots off and positioned them a midst the other boots that were lined up outside the classroom door. I wore the bags to class. Most of the kids wore bags inside their boots.
At recess, I retrieved my gym shoes from my cubby and laced them on.
I heard teacher saying “Whose David Freeman?” as she peered down at the only boots left in the hallway.
I said nothing as I skipped outside.
After recess, I arrived back in the hallway to find an empty spot where my boots had once been.
My mother was going to kill me if I didn’t wear those boots home at lunch.
Alarmed, I quickly checked the line of boots of the classroom on either side of mine without any luck. Just as teacher called me into class, scolding me for dawdling, I glanced down the long hallway and saw one big brown boot in the middle of it. It must have been kicked down the hall by some older kids. It was down by the office.
The rest of the morning, I sat anxiously at my desk, waiting for the office to announce in its usual nasal way;”David Freeman to the office, please! David Freeman to the office.”
Luckily, this did not happen.
At lunch bell, I scooted out of the classroom, under teacher’s arm that was leaning on the door and crinkled my way across the slippery wet floors to the office, half running. Remember, I had plastic bags on my feet. Teacher called me back to class and told me not to run in the hallway.
My friends called out to me, “Where are you going? Aren’t you going to walk home with us?”
“ I’ve got to find my brother”, I said, and then I kept going. I passed the grade 5 class, the washroom, the old staircase that went upstairs to the second floor, the staff washroom and staffroom, the library and then made my way to the office.
The boot was gone.
I asked the round bellied janitor that was mopping close by, if he had seen a big brown buckle boot.
He said,” Was the name David Freeman? Yes, I put them in the Grade 8 wing lost and found.”
I scooted past him and turned the corner to the senior wing and plunged my hand into the tangled mess of scarves and hats and coats and old gym shorts.
I found the boots.
I waited a few minutes for the yard to clear, buckled on the boots and plunged through the deep snow back home.
I cursed David Freeman that day. I cursed that he got a new pair of boots. I cursed that he sent his old pair to my house. I cursed him.
I wore those boots almost the entire winter. I got creative. I got sneaky.
I put them on every morning and then took them off at the back alley around the corner from my house and changed into running shoes every day on the way to school. I carried them around the school yard pretending to look for the brother that I had to deliver them to. I changed back into them every night on my way home from school, at the alley again, around the corner from my house. I started wearing my shoes inside of them. Lord knows there was plenty of room.
It was a tough winter. It was the winter I met that crazy dog, the bane of my childhood existence. Read all about it here in the post “I’ve met some dogs in my life”. Imagine running from a vicious dog strapped to big, brown, imitation leather, buckled, floppy, ginormous foot gear. I may as well have been wearing two Rubbermaid trash cans strapped to my feet.
Sometimes, life is tough.
David Freeman, if you are out there; I want you to know, I will never forget you. Ever!!!