Odd how one random thought can open a gate to a long-ago world and invite you to linger in the garden of childhood for a time. Blossoms of memories opened up as I wandered the path of experiences all connected by one word – polish.
No, not for nails. That polish is part of my heritage garden, because my mom did her nails on Saturdays sometimes. The smells would linger for a bit as did the bottles of polish and remover and swabs of cotton on the end table by the divan – (the 50’s word for couch) – along with the aroma of popcorn, until Lawrence Welk and wrestling were over, signaling the end of the family party, and we grudgingly did as we were told and went to bed.
Not before the ritual of good-night kisses, though. There would be the scent of Prell shampoo still in Mom’s hair, now all bobby-pinned for Sunday’s look. Little brother smelled like popcorn and little brother. Little sister smelled like baby powder. Dad smelled like after shave, cigarettes, and shoe polish.
I would go to sleep with the light still on in the living room while he polished our shoes for church. His polish ‘kit’ included tins of black and brown wax polish, rags made from one of his old undershirts, and bottles of liquid polish, white and black. I would wake up and see him sitting in the kitchen shining the shoes and drinking coffee.
Later I would wear pretty black paten leather shoes to church that didn’t need much work, but for the longest I had to wear corrective shoes that looked like black and white saddle oxfords. When those shoes were all the rage when I was a young teen, no way could I think they looked cool. I wore my penny loafers right through that oxford trend.
Perhaps I’m still bucking trends a bit. This young-at-heart baby boomer rates comfort first. I was headed to a party on Saturday night in my hometown of St. Louis, so appearance couldn’t take an obvious back seat to comfort. But what to do? It had to be that pair of black shoes to go with that pair of jeans, to compensate for gender and location differences in defining the term ‘casual’ for party attire.
If only I had some shoe polish. Who uses shoe polish these days? Can shoe polish even still be purchased? If so, where? I haven’t purchased it since my now 33 year-old son wore those little white shoes with the bells on them to keep laces tied! Hmm, I have written on bus windows, though. Is that really shoe polish? Or is it window marker? Wonder if it comes in black. Wonder if it would work.
A-HA! No need to buy anything! In the laundry room, hanging on the door behind the washer, (one of those mystery doors that goes nowhere and a reminder that Mom changed her mind a time or two when Dad was building this house), is Dad’s shoe polish kit. It’s a plastic bag with, yep, a tin of Kiwi black polish, two bottles of black polish with the attached applicators, some rags made out of an old undershirt, and a blackened toothbrush. One of the bottles boasted that no buffing was needed; polish dries shiny. Perfect.
A couple of shakes, a few swipes…good to go. But…these socks really should be black. Maybe I will stop along the way and buy a pair of black socks. Too cold to go sockless. But, who will look at my feet anyway?
Several did. Party attire was the topic of conversation in a group I happened to be in the middle of at one point.
“See? I told you it was casual, but it wouldn’t be so casual that tennis shoes and grungy jeans would work,” said one female partier to another.
“But I’m wearing jeans,” I said to have something to say.
“Yes, but your jeans are dressy jeans, and you are wearing good shoes. Perfect,” said the fashion cop.
Thanks, Dad! 🙂