The Ugly Uggs
Yuli Hu has an astronaut family where only one parent lives with the children while the other works in some other part of the world. When her husband returns from Taiwan, he and her teenage daughter argue about the state of her beloved dirty-but-fashionable-Uggs. The result is a pair of ruined boots– and a demonstration of the difficulty of forging a family while people are separated by time and space.
In the laundry room in my basement, there is a dark corner I tend to ignore. But I know what’s there. Among a pile of Christmas decorations and some half-empty paint cans, there is a pair of ruined winter boots. A pair of UGGs. Authentic from Australia.
These UGGs are grey, with a cute wooden logo button on each side. The style is called “Bailey Button.” The boots are made of the softest sheepskin I have ever touched: twin-face sheepskin. They were the most expensive winter boots anyone in our whole family had ever bought. The “used to be wonderful” UGGs belong to my daughter. And yes, she is the reason we left our home country Taiwan and immigrated to Canada. Her father and I want to give her a better education and a brighter future.
Having a pair of UGGs was important for girls her age. After several months of hesitation, I went to the mall, took a deep breath, and bought them. Once my daughter put the UGGs on, she did not want to take them off. She wore them whether it was snowy, sunny or rainy.
My daughter and I have become closer and closer since we immigrated. But, in contrast, her father has been moving farther and farther away, in the process of finding jobs—from New York to San Francisco, then back to Taiwan. Gradually, our family became a typical “astronaut family,” one of those immigrant families in which only one parent lives with the children, while the other parent works in some other part of the world. It’s hard. The distance between those who are away and those who stay can become huge. Huge like outer space.
I was not ready for being apart so often and so long. Perhaps none of us were. So much time, so much space.
Luxury UGGs are very sensitive, as sensitive as a teenager. Twinface sheepskin gets dark stains when it gets wet. That means, if you don’t maintain your UGGs, they begin to look bad.
I am not good at cleaning shoes. Since the boots were my daughter’s favourites, I believed she would look after them. Winters passed. The UGGs got dirtier and dirtier. She did nothing, and I didn’t care too much. But then, one day, her father flew in from another time zone.
With a short temper and a different mindset, he ordered his daughter to clean the dirty UGGs right away. After reminding her a few times and getting no response, he took action. He grabbed the boots, submerged them directly into a basin of water, and brushed them hard. It all happened so fast—a burst of a father’s anger and the crying of a teenager. The UGGs were ruined.
Later, when I came home from work, my daughter told me the whole story, sobbing. Then I saw the boots. The colour had faded completely, and the dark stains got right into the leather. The texture was no longer soft. The damage was irreversible.
I felt sorry for my daughter, but I did not challenge her father. Parenting is hard. Sometimes I choose silence.
But what to do with the ugly UGGs? My daughter told me to store them in the basement.
“Really?” I asked.
“I just want to keep them, Mama,” she said.
Three years have passed. Since then, she has never wanted another pair of winter boots, no matter how hard I try to persuade her. I respect my daughter too much to insist. And I sympathize with her father. He does everything for her sake, without knowing how to express his love.
As I said, we are an astronaut family, after all. When the astronaut keeps floating in the dark outer space, he can barely hear the ground control calling from Earth, and vice versa.
What our astronaut family is facing is the test of time and space.
YULI HU is a journalist from Taiwan and joined The Shoe Project in 2015. She moved to Canada with her 8-year-old daughter in 2007.
Yuli worked for OMNI TV from 2008 to 2015, where she produced Mandarin news programs, hosted the Mandarin Weekend Show and worked as a voiceover for Mandarin television and radio commercials.
Currently, Yuli is the Canada Correspondent of Central News Agency (CNA), a state-owned news agency operated by the Republic of China (Taiwan). She also works as a translator and reporter for World Journal, the largest Chinese language newspaper in the United States.