Today my son Ilan transitioned into big boy shoes… the shoes that have laces. I suggested that he find a YouTube video for him to watch and learn how to do it. I then left for prayer service at a small synagogue near our home.
I joked that I had not learned how to do it properly in almost 50 years… therefore he should learn the right way – not from me! I came back from Shul (the synagogue) roughly an hour later that same morning and I found him sitting on the floor trying to master the “bunny loop” following a video that was running on the computer screen above him.
After several cries of frustration and encouragement from Mom, he was on his way… I was amazed. Out of curiosity I tried it out. I was surprised, I learned it quickly as well, and I loved it. I thought.
I had forgotten about my new accomplishment until time came for me to go to work later that morning. I slipped on my shoes and out of instinct tied the knot on my left shoe’s laces the “the old way”… Oh, I said to myself… let’s try the bunny loop!
It worked like a charm, nice and tight no fuss. Slowly it dawned on me… how long do you do something until it becomes a habit? How long until it is considered a custom? 50 years is a very long time. My wrong way of tying shoes started as a child in Texas and went on to span several cities, states, countries, schools, neighborhoods, lives, friends and even tons and tons of shoes form my PF flyers to my Sperry Topsiders to those now abandoned Reebok Rugby Boots, seldom used LL Bean Hiking boots…
Interrupted hikes in the wilderness stopping to re-tie my shoes, taking those time-outs during soccer games to quickly tighten the knots under the glare of annoyed opponents (and team mates), adjusting before taking a corner kicks, re-tightening during morning and evening runs, reaching down to redo them during morning commutes, drives to work, while dancing at weddings or standing at parties… the “wrong way laces” were a part of every day in my life and on every pair of shoes I wore that had laces and now, thanks to a short video, I was changing. I was abandoning a unique quirk that made me the butt of many jokes and subject to stares of passers by as I stooped down to re-tie my lace and they happened to notice the strange working of my fingers… and I felt devastated. I could not explain the melancholic feeling that invaded me as I walked to the subway station that morning. Tears fought to jump out of my eyes as I tried to explain to myself why this change was so devastating. I should have felt pride. Yet, I felt I was betraying myself.
Come on, John Wooden wrote rules about how to tie laces for his storied UCLA Bruins teams… it was about efficiency, not losing time…. but for me it still remained a vital connection to the 5 or 6 year old Alan that learned things by a watching. I had learned the wrong way from my father, by looking at my dad tie my shoes while I stood above him and he crouched down to tie them and copied it, albeit, backwards. The looping looks strange to any of you, because that is how I learned, not unlike the kid that learned how to read Hebrew upside down because that was his place at the table in the Yeshiva in the olden days… okay… mine was not such a sublime reason. It never mattered to me that when people saw me tie them on… people snorted and asked me why?! I smiled and shrugged. It was not important for me to learn “their way” – no matter if they offered to teach me – this was part of me and I was used to it. It hurt no one, it was just my thing. It became a part of me, and it was my trademark so to speak – so I never bothered learning the “right way”… but today, March 26, 2018… I have learned and I am sad for it. I cannot promise that tomorrow I will tie my shoes again the right way…