5 Feb

Want vs. Need

A few months after we moved to Berkeley, a little storefront window in our neighborhood that had previously been obscured by huge sheets of frosted paper suddenly became a showcase of sorts, displaying all manner of random doodad and tchotchke and knickknack. Among the oddities were two matted illustrations of vaguely European street corners, several unmatched sets of ceramic cups and saucers in various shades of mustard, an old tea kettle, a blue plastic desk fan (non-oscillating), a handful of seashells, some tarnished doorknobs.

There were also three trees, five to eight inches tall, carved with a scroll saw out of buttery maple or ash. About two inches wide, and flat on either side, they were simple unpainted silhouettes of oak trees in full foliage, bulging and round like cumulus clouds, almost art deco in the daring curvature of their lines. One tree arched a little to the left, one squatted sturdily on its fat trunk, one puffed forth its leaves like a proud chickadee fluffing its breast feathers. I wanted those trees. Not only did I imagine them sitting in our living room, matching perfectly the futon, the bookcases, and the dresser, but I imagined them in my hands, the wood warm and smooth in my fingers, soft as a petal.

I wanted those trees, but I didn’t know how to get them. Nothing about the storefront indicated that its display items were for sale. There were no signs, no hours of operation posted, and the door was always closed. As far as I could tell, the place was being used as an office, for employees only. The spread in the window might just be for show; look but don’t touch.

I walked by those trees every day for a week, but I never paused before the window, not wanting to linger upon the unattainable. Then one day I stopped for a closer look and noticed a fluorescent orange sticker dot on the back of one of the trees. Inked on the dot, upside-down and barely legible, was $10. At least I thought it said $10. But $10 for three wooden trees? Three of the loveliest wooden trees in creation? Uncharacteristically, I doubted myself. It must be $10 per tree, which meant $30 that I didn’t have, barely emerging from three months of unemployment, all my savings spent on rent and food. I walked away.

That weekend, I drove by the trees in the window on my way to somewhere important. I couldn’t help myself from looking at them, and when I did, I noticed the door to the building was wide open and a sandwich board on the sidewalk outside seemed to be announcing an event, welcoming guests. I couldn’t stop at that moment, and when I finally made it back to the store, it was closed. It remained closed for days. At this point, I was aching for those trees, at the same time afraid they would be too expensive and afraid someone else would buy them before I got a chance. The longer the door remained shut and the trees remained behind the glass, the more I was sure I had to have them. I made plans for a special trip to knock on the door and see if that little extra effort would get me what I wanted. But I kept putting it off. I didn’t want to disturb the office when the door was closed. I didn’t want someone to tell me I was wrong, that the trees weren’t for sale, that I should have noticed this was not a retail store. I didn’t want to show up with $30 and be $40 short. I let shyness and uncertainty and fear of embarrassment or disillusionment close over me like a shell.

And then, you may have guessed, as mysteriously as they had appeared, the trees were gone. The window was empty, once more covered over with vellum. I was at a loss. I had lost something. The opportunity had slipped away, a rabbit under a fence.


There are these boots. Imagine medium-brown Italian leather, knee-high, one-inch heel, a zip up the back, laces up the front, a buckle across the ankle. Neither slutty nor clunky but perfectly perfect from heel to toe. If ever a boot made good use of its tongue and sole, it happened when this pair called out to me from the pages of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. I want these boots.

I want them so much, the first time I saw them I actually considered spending $160 on them. I haven’t spent $160 on anything in my closet, including an old prom dress. I can barely spend $60 on jeans or shoes that I know I’ll wear every other day, so how could I imagine spending nearly three times that on something that will go with exactly two items in my wardrobe and shouldn’t–for the sake of fashion–be worn more than once every other month?

I haven’t even seen the boots in real life. What if the leather is stiff? What if they smell funny? What if they don’t fit? What if they make me look like a hoochie or a soldier?

But what if they look fabulous? What if they fit like they were made for my feet? What if they make my legs look long and thin and they give me a subtle yet noticeable rockstar confidence? What if these are the boots that will open the door to a whole wardrobe of daring apparel? What if?

I first saw these boots last fall. I was drawn to them immediately, but the price put them squarely out of my league. When the winter VS catalogue came, I saw them again. In November, I bought a skirt that goes with nothing I own but would look perfect with those boots. I saw them a third time when the VS email newsletter popped up in my inbox. I spent Christmas vacation looking for a suitable substitute, but to no avail. You can imagine my excitement when the VS boot sale was announced, promising deals of up to 50 percent off. My boots were discounted $20. Twenty never looked so measly.

Four email newsletters, five catalogues, and six trips to various shoe stores later, I am still in love with these boots. Even without seeing them in person, I know they will be everything I think they will be. I know they are soft. I know they are supple. I know they will suit me. I know I won’t regret them. I hope against all hope they will fit.

I am buying the boots!

By    2 Comments    Posted in: Regular Entries


  • Good for you…sometime you just have to splurge. I hope they fit perfectly.

  • I just found your website, and I have to tell you that I love the first page, with the little boy and girl drawing – it is so cute!

    Thi is a short visit, since I am in my way out – but I will come back to read about your stories!

    Congratulations on your engagement! Enjoy – it is such beutiful stage – and it goes by pretty fast!

    Next week will a year from our engagement date, and we have been married for 20 days now! And it is wonderful!

    Until the next visit!