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!  🙂


About Teresa Pearson Lee

Retired after 33 years of teaching English and French (one year in private school in Memphis, TN and the rest in public school in Doniphan, MO. Enjoying new adventures - all those things I put off for lack of time, energy, now I can try them! Pottery, writing, traveling, camping, kayaking, dancing, listening to some of the best live music ever, and making lively new friendships. All christened with an appreciation for great red wine! Created and operated KC's on the Current, then sold it and managed it for new owners. You might still find me at the reservation desk when spring rolls around. Born and raised in St. Louis, MO near The Hill. Though a transplant to Southeast Missouri, still a city gal at the core with a deep love of the natural resources in these Ozark foothills. Currently I am a content coordinator for Poplar Bluff Living Magazine and a columnist/stringer for the local weekly The Prospect News. My rescue Siamese helps with most of the proofreading; he has a great ear. I relish the solitude easily had in the Mark Twain Forest but thoroughly enjoy lively outings for music, wine, conversation close to home or in my beloved hometown. Technology is my greatest challenge but so worth the shared connections. There may be a need for solitude but there is little loneliness. The material in this blog written by Teresa Lee is her property and cannot be used without express written consent to do so.
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2 Responses to Polish

  1. What fun to read this! Brings back memories of my teenage days. First time in years that I’ve thought of the black and white saddle oxfords, and how comfortable and stylish they were.

  2. kayladean says:

    I remember saddle oxfords. My mom hated them because her mother made her wear them growing up, but I loved them as a kid. It drove my mom crazy!!! Great memories. Really enjoyed reading this.

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