Dearest Rachel –

It’s the sort of thing that gamblers at the craps tables always talk about needing, and it’s the last of my Christmas presents – at least, until such time as some girl comes into my life to take your place in our home and family (although I suspect that will be an evergreen wish list item for years to come yet) – as offered and promised by my folks. It shouldn’t come as a big deal, and it’s not like I haven’t gotten some for myself even since you left, but it’s a rare occurrence that I get a pair of new shoes.

Still, I’ve run most of my footwear into the ground. Too many of them are cracked in the soles, which makes them… less than ideal for walking around in the damp and cold that is a Chicago winter. In fact, even as I was leaving the church up in Long Grove last weekend, I stepped into a puddle on my wrong foot – I could feel the water seep into my sock almost immediately. I got out of it as fast as possible, and it dried off eventually, but I do need to replace these shoes going forward – and the folks had promised to get a pair for me as a Christmas present.

Well, that time was upon us today – or at least, as good a time as there’s going to be.

There is an old nursery tale, somewhat in the vein of the Cinderella story, featuring an urchin so poor she owns but a single shoe. At some point in the narrative, she is gifted with a pair by a wealthy benefactor, and cannot seem to stop showing her new acquisition off to everyone she meets. While her joy and enthusiasm are laudable, it becomes such an integral part of her character that she has earned eternal fame as… Little Goodie Two-Shoes.

To be equated to her these days is not a compliment.

Still, a new pair of dress shoes is quite welcome, especially given the state of the old ones I usually use (I have others, but they’re that much older, and more formal, requiring lacing up as opposed to just being slip-on loafers). So we’re off to this family-owned place in downtown Des Plaines, where we’re waited on by (according to Dad) the son of the owner (granted, given the sign outside about being owned by the same family since 1921, I’d assume that even the owner is at least three generations removed from the original establishment of the business).

And while they’re up to date on their stock, some of the decorative items are unquestionably antique., particularly the radio and television. They even have one of those old machines for X-raying your foot in order to size it, but I would assume it’s long since been rendered non-functional, as those things had radiation issues back in the day.

Needless to say, I didn’t have my foot X-rayed. In fact, it turns out that sizing my feet for a shoe would be a process familiar to you. With one brand, I could barely get my foot inside a size 11; with another, it felt like it was floating around inside of a size 10. It’s like when you would buy a dress; the size doesn’t give any indication whether it will fit you well at all.

Still, it actually didn’t take all that long for me to try out better than half a dozen pairs and settle on one that both looks and feels comfortable enough to call it good. I noticed the ambient music playing the Rolling Stone’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” while Dad paid for them

I don’t know if that could be applied to the fact that there really is no perfect shoe, or that the shoes weren’t at the top of my Christmas wish list.

Still, sometimes you’ve got to enjoy the little things in life when they’re offered. I don’t eat lunch when I’m at the office most days, but since we were out, Dad had planned on picking fish chips up for Mom and I at Don’s Dock, a local seafood purveyor. Far be it from me to object to that.

Except… they were offering more than fish chips:

You’ll notice the second to last item; I used to enjoy that on a regular basis when they had it available at Popeyes or even the Cajun Kitchen (before they got closed down due to health code violations). I’ve long missed the dish, and was somewhat disappointed to not have been able to find it even when we were down in New Orleans two years ago – has it only been that long?

Anyway, having found something I considered to be much better than fish chips, I took care of my own order. I also took note of the fact that I might be able to get something for Daniel from here; at least until Mardi Gras, they’re offering alligator, which we did enjoy down there.

I didn’t bother to get any beads, however. Actually, I don’t remember how many of them we’ve still kept from our trip down there.

So, with our purchases in hand, we made our way home to enjoy them.

In the spirit of Mardi Gras, I also got a side order of jambalaya. I thought I remembered étouffée being a little bit browner than this. But it was still good, and spicy, so I’m not about to complain. It’s so nice to have a taste of this dish after so many years, and find it’s every bit as good as – if a little different than – I remember.

I can only wish that you were there to enjoy some of it with me, especially considering that I couldn’t finish it. I’m sure you’d have been more than happy to help me out with the rest of my meal. Although, I’ll probably have the rest for dinner tonight, while Daniel and Logan enjoy… whatever they decide on.

For now, honey, take care of yourself, and keep an eye out for me. I miss you, and I’m sorry you’re not here to enjoy the little things with me that I’m enjoying.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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