Sunday, May 11, 2014

Polishing Shoes - a Mother's Day Memoir

... a great find at Walmart
When I was young, one of my Saturday night jobs was to polish the baby’s shoes on Saturday night so that they would shine on Sunday morning. Whomever was the baby at the time would be wearing those first white ankle- high boots that babies of the time wore. If that little person was already walking there might be dirt on the top of the shoe, as well as the little cracks on top of the leather than arrive when the baby moves fast enough and far enough. Alternately, some of the babies would still get down on their knees and crawl, so the toes would be scuffed. My job was to take the white polish and hide the evidence that this was a well worn boot, probably already time for it to be replaced. I would fill in the cracks with polish and with time I learned how to buff the baby's white boot into a shine.

I have always loved a shined shoe and in the not to distant past, I have heard myself say to a grandchild, “Never trust a person whose shoes aren’t shined.” Even knowing that is blantantly false, the words just slip out of my mouth.

... the old family shoe box ...
Sensible shoes, that is what I wear now – better to have calves that don’t ache at the end of the day than to wear a stylish shoe. Still, I like my shoes shined.  My liquid polish is gone – I left it on a ship when I was worrying about every ounce of baggage that I was taking home.

The old cake polish in my shoe shine box now resembles the dry clay of the sunbaked prairie – small fissures, cracks and crumbling when I touch it.  A soft cloth won't work to pick  it up.  It is not a case of touching it with a cloth anymore – now it is scrapping it off onto the cloth and hoping enough stays there between when I make the dig and when I get the polish to the shoe. That is the reason I bought a new black cream polish yesterday: Moneysworth Best Dressin’ Up Quick Shine No Buff Cream Polish.

... a hand that needs more practice ...
A new kind of polish, a shine on my shoes for Mother's Day, a new kind of clean-up to do.



  1. That photo of your hand is just the best. The imagine of the dry prairie a real contrast to our rich wet shoulder on road 66 that now has dropped down as much as six inches on the other side of the fissure.

  2. I saw your shoe shine box when I was at your house in the wee hours of the night this week. Good to put it to use. Greg used to shine his shoes before we were married. What happened?

  3. Last time you were visiting us you told Xavier that he should never trust someone who's shoes weren't polished. I went right out and bought black polish for his shoes and Doc Marten"cherry" polish for Leo's Doc Marten boots. Tonight I will remind them both to use it.

  4. Duncan says "OMG! what happened to your fingers?! Evolution at its finest? they look like nubs!"

  5. Duncan says "oh wait... you are just scrunching up your fingers. they looked like nubs!"

  6. Duncan? You are right. This is not the best view of my hand. I rested it on the table. The fingers curled under and I could have thought to straighten them. I was working on getting the best view of how the shoe polishing had gone all wrong.

    I was also concerned about showing too much of the blue veins that begin to show in old people's hands. When I was 7 I noticed that my piano teacher had those blue veins and I hoped that I didn't have to live that long -- long enough to have those showing in my hands. I didn't mind her fire-engine red fingernail paint, though.