My Nikes

My Nikes

Sheryl Keiper


Sheryl Keiper


They were my loves, my comfort zone, my security blanket, my zen – my favs- they were my Nike sneakers. They appeared in the early 2000’s and it was a very active time in my life. They took me every afternoon after teaching all day on a wonderful walk through my magical hometown of  Lambertville. I wore them with little white socks then; the routine was embedded in my brain.

Pull into garage after 17-mile trip home from school, throw keys on counter, pet cats, race upstairs to bedroom to kick off the usually uncomfortable heels from work, change into sweats, pet dog, leash dog, and zoom outside in all kinds of weather and start the vertical downhill walk through the neighboring cemetery. These shoes transported me to downtown as a read tombstones nearby. As I walked in those Nikes, I thought about my own graveside.   My stone would say “Thanks for finally visiting.”

As I approached town with my loyal dog by my side, my Nikes and I would stop by DeAnna’s restaurant. There the owners would graciously greet us and bring out two superb fresh home-made meatballs for my greyhound Nandi. (I did not eat red meat!) After a brief chat with the ladies, Nandi, my Nikes, and I would continue down through town to the Delaware River.

Here we would enter the towpath and my blood pressure from working at school all day would naturally drop. Wildflowers abounded (protected from picking by a NJ state law) fellow dog owners would greet me, geese would honk, ducks would quack, and an occasional rabbit would scamper by much to the delight of ex-racing Nandi.

We would then proceed to climb carefully down an embankment to the rocks on the river dam and sit and watch the clear water swish by with occasional fish curling in the holes. Yellow canoes and occasional jet skis abounded and the view was a kaleidoscopic visual delight.   On unusually warm late day afternoons in September and June, I would take those Nikes off and wade in the clean, blue-green river up to my calves. The feeling was heavenly.

Those sneakers lasted at least six good years. Nandi passed away at a ripe 14 years old and those sneakers accompanied me on my walks with the next greyhound named Sassy.  I wore those shoes every Sunday when I went to Trenton to visit my Dad who lived alone after my Mom passed in 1997, I would do his “bills and pills” and laundry and serve him a Sunday dinner.

We would sit in the cozy TV room and I would take off those Nikes to grab a power nap as he dozed peacefully in his old blue Lazy-boy chair.  It was right before I retired in 2006 to move here to NC that I decided that my Nikes had survived their shelf-life. Now that I work in shoe retail, I know that the average life of a sneaker is only 6 months. My Nikes had survived 6 happy years!

So, I just couldn’t trash them. They could not disrespectfully end in my trash can outside. I couldn’t put them to rest there.  One day prior to the move to NC with my Dad, I invited a close neighborhood friend over; I explained my Nike dilemma to her; I showed her those blue and white sneakers with the worn rubber treads. She took them immediately out of my hands and promised to recycle them with dignity.

She was traveling to the Jersey shore the next day to visit her Mom. I requested a “burial at sea” for them. I never did get the courage to ask her of their final outcome.  As an afterthought, maybe I should have put them to rest at the wing dam, circling around the clear water with the curling trout fish.

Perhaps they are partially recycled now, enjoying a new life with some youngster happily running through a field of wildflowers with his new puppy…