A Dear Friend

Juliana Petruzzi Zalta


Meet Caramel, Juliana’s favourite boots. They accompanied her through many highs and lows before her journey to Canada. Arriving in Winnipeg in winter, amid pandemic lockdowns, was the beginning of the end of Caramel’s story and the start of Juliana’s next chapter.


In 2007, I left my parents’ home in Porto Alegre and moved to Caxias do Sul to start a new job as an urban planner for the Brazilian government. Caxias do Sul is colder than Porto Alegre, so I needed to adapt my clothes and shoes to the new climate. That´s where I bought my dear friend, Caramel.


For me, Caramel was more than a pair of boots. Her colour reminded me of the traditional caramels I used to eat as a child. She was a luxurious pair of leather boots with calf-high uppers, low and elegant wooden heels, and rounded toes. 


Caramel and I became fast friends. When she hugged my feet, I felt comfortable and secure. She made me feel elegant, happy and warm. In the early years, I would travel back to Porto Alegre on the weekends to visit my family. By car or bus, many of these journeys were made with her. I never felt alone when I smelled her leather. 


In 2011, I met my husband, Paulo. I was so happy that Caramel was with me on our first date. I was nervous and excited, and she tolerated me confidently and happily. Paulo and I were married in 2013, and my trusted friend accompanied us on our honeymoon trip to France, Italy, and Switzerland. 


We were walking in Cannes one day when Caramel lost one of her heels! With his poor French and some erratic sign language, Paulo ran into a grocery store and managed to get some super glue to fix her up and make her as good as new. 


We now have two daughters, Ana and Clara. Caramel was with me at both of their baby showers. She comforted my feet and made me feel graceful, even though I looked like a mommy duck. In 2020 when we moved to Winnipeg, Caramel came along. She walked with me to my first job interview. 


Being in Canada in the midst of a pandemic lockdown was a new phase for all of us. Like me, Caramel struggled to adapt. Maybe it was the extreme difference in the climate. Perhaps she had just given all that she could give. Caramel’s seams began to open. She took refuge in the corner of my closet where I gently cared for her, not wanting to accept that I would have to let her go.


When I first heard of The Shoe Project, I immediately thought of Caramel and everything we had been through together. She had given me her all, and I was preparing to let her go. In October 2022, I let my husband take her from the closet. At the time, I thought, “It’s just an object.” But in reality, Caramel was more than that. She was a dear friend who had a life filled with adventures, had gone to many places, and had been with me through many life events.


Ironically, one day after saying goodbye to Caramel, I received an email inviting me to participate in The Shoe Project. Caramel was already on her way to rest in the landfill. I wish I could have rescued her to give her the honour she deserves. 


But her stories of travel, family, love, and care are really my story. My old boots are gone, but look, it‘s a new beginning! 


Who will be my next faithful companion? Which pair of shoes will become my next dear friend that accompanies me through all the coming adventures? My story will continue, and I am excited to see which shoes will join me.

Juliana is a former urban planner. She is now participating in a facilitator training program at Mosaic to learn how to support immigrant families. She sees her involvement in The Shoe Project as a chance to hone her communication skills as she inspires self-confidence and a sense of community in other immigrant women.

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