When I was a little girl scarcely out of kindergarten, my favourite pair of shoes lit up. They were by L.A Gear and had two sets of neon laces in each shoe. I wore them almost exclusively. The only time I wasn’t wearing them, I was wearing a pair of Vans slides with the whole Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle crew illustrated on the tops in that puffy plastic that was so big back then.
The decade was just barely 1990, I lived in West Hollywood and the Rodney King riots were big on the news. My teacher had napping mats for us to lie on in class and little brown envelopes in which everyone except me would place milk money each morning. I did not drink cow’s milk. During physical education time, we would trek down to the auditorium, my light up shoes blinking on the walls of the hall. We would all stand, united, holding tightly with our sweaty little palms to the edges of the big primary-colour-panelled tent that we would raise up and down while chanting in glee.
It was Los Angeles, so it wasn’t weird that I didn’t get my pair of light up L.A Gear shoes at the mall. They were given to me by the wardrobe stylist on the shoot of Michael Jackson’s video Black or White. It wasn’t weird that I missed lots of school (sometimes full weeks) because I was on a production set. The other children and I would sit in the trailer with the on-set tutor; pull out our manilla files of work sent by our own teachers while we ate bagels from craft services. After a shoot, I would return to my school with its nap mats and multicoloured blankets. It was Los Angeles, so this was normal. Wrap parties and boom mics and scrims and apple boxes and magic hours. So L.A.
I will be turning thirty-three on April 26th.
It’s wild to me that just the other day I saw Forever 21 post on Instagram that they have launched a collaborative line with L.A Gear. I hadn’t thought about those light up shoes in a while.
For some reason, turning thirty-three feels more final than the dirty-thirty mile post. Something about the alliterative twirl of it on my tongue feels like there is no way back. Emphasis. Thirty. Three. The curve of the twin digits reminds me of the two curves of nine month stretches I carried and brought forth new life. The loops of the threes mirror the loops of the rogue curls in my hair which have betrayed their raven brethren and scream out in a striking silver. Markers of adulthood. Wisdom.
The timing seems so fitting that a square photo of a twenty-something in the bright pop windbreaker crop top fashion of my youth would spring up as I sit here thinking of a meaningful way to write about my upcoming birthday. Just seeing it called forth a barrage of memory flashes. My own reflective newsfeed. Fashion is a consequential element of our history which we keep in a call-ready position somewhere nestled in our brain’s waiting room. We can date instances of our lives by what we wore, look at ageing photos from the days of Kodak and Fujifilm and laugh at the patterns we thought were snazzy (or the fact that we used terms like “snazzy”…).
The other day, I was speaking with someone with whom I had attended high school. As it goes when you see a person from that period of your life, you always make note of how much time has passed. He said something interesting to me, though. He told me I had “made great use of my time”.
It gave me pause. I came home and pulled up a Facebook album I made of photos from the eighties and nineties. There I was in neon tops, colour-blocked pants, Blossom hats, and those damn L.A Gear sneakers. Great use of my time. I scrolled through a few more albums of what used to be “recent times”, but were now fifteen years ago. Somehow we do not notice how much time has passed because we are too busy making great use of our time.
There is a specific nostalgic comfort in thumbing the pages of an old album. The scent we associate with the glossy plastic sheaths; the glean of the printed images as time has welded them to the pages. We gently touch them with fingers grateful for their existence. Devoid of the tactical photo as we are here in the millennial world, I swiped through digital renders of my young self with no sense to experience or connect me to the past other than the visuals.
One day it will be a decade from now and I will scroll through whatever iteration of technology our memory keeping has evolved to. I will probably tut-tut about what will by then be my heinous choice of fashion during my thirties. I will probably recall my years, but not the months or the days or the hours. That will be okay, though, because I know how to make great use of time.