I was traveling between the Park Hill showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Las Vegas this summer in the middle of a tough show set-up schedule when I looked down and noticed my boots. They looked as weary as I felt. Instead of rushing downtown to the market or baggage claim, I stopped at the shoe shine man. I climbed up the elevated chair, immediately feeling a little self- conscience and imperial all at the same time. I had always heard if you are feeling down, get your shoes shined. I am now a true believer.
I watched and marveled at this lost art being applied to my thirty and abused leather boots. I wear them every day for work, for gardening for most chores. Most times before “going to town” I just take a wet cloth and wipe them down to remove the red clay and quickly towel dry them. The effort is rustic, but not very impressive. The damp towel trick reminds me of my Mother, when she would clean up by shoes as the school bus was coming down the road. So many times I had played the day before and gotten them dirty, did not tell her, yet refused to wear dirty shoes to school as she had taught me. What a vicious cycle! The quick clean up would get me on the bus and through the day until we could put them into the washing machine.
When I can out of this reminiscence, I noticed a rich, brown polish being applied and hand rubbed, reviving the faded leather before my eyes. After being brushed and then buffed with a towel, my old boots looked better than ever. The shining leather boots brought back another memory I had forgotten. It used to be my chore to shine my Father’s boots. His were Exotic skin boots popular in the 1970’s. Dan Post ostrich, snake or alligator. I took great pride in making them look as beautiful as possible for him. This was one of the few ways I had figured out how to please a man that was not easy to please. I think it is a great way to show respect for someone by shining their shoes.
Unfortunately we now live in a flip-flop wearing world of footwear. Try to find shoe polish in the grocery store. There used to be an entire section with a variety of rich colors. We used to have three or four cans of Kiwi polish under our kitchen sink alone, usually next to an old sock now relegated to the application of shoe polish.
I can remember my grandfather’s old brogues. They never looked old though. He took good care of them and they lasted a lifetime. My shoes are lucky to make it a year. Oh how I would love to have a beautiful pair of leather shoes with a wonderful patina I had cherished that someone finds in my closet after I am gone. I would hate for them to find a bunch of careless purchases. I would hope they would find something they would be interested in that says something about who wore them. Perhaps to walk in my shoes.
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