Sunday, May 13, 2012

Black Patent Leather Shoes

Being raised in a large family with seven other children was really quite a joy for me and I will never forget those wonderful years of my childhood. By the time I came along, my oldest  brother Bob, who is twenty years older than me, was already out of the house and in the Air Force. My two oldest sisters, Lois and Ruby, were in high school and they were actually more like extra mothers to me...kinda like the Duggar Family but on a smaller scale. My dad worked hard at his manufacturing job in a small machine shop and when he was finished for the day he was usually out in his own shop where he worked on lawn mowers, rototillers and such. Almost everyone around the area knew my dad and by word of mouth he had more than enough work to keep him busy. Folks would call him for all kinds of things...water pumps and heaters, name it. There wasn't much he didn't know how to fix. Mom never worked a job outside of the home but raising eight children and running a household which she did so well, was more than enough to keep her busy. Any money that my dad made from the side jobs helped to pay the bills and buy things that we needed for our large family.

Me, Janet and Barbara all dressed up... 
Janet's dress (right) may have been store-bought.  
Mom made all of her own and nearly all of us girls' dresses when we were little. I remember making many trips to the fabric store where she would be sure to buy plenty of yardage to allow for the dresses...many times, we had matching ones since it was easier to just buy the same kind of fabric. As a little girl, I loved getting all dressed up for church and special occasions (still do!) 

One special memory that I keep in my "treasure box" is when I got a brand new pair of black patent leather shoes. I had gotten new shoes before but they were not like these. New shoes sometimes meant that they were just new to me...that they were actually just handed down to me since they no longer fit  my older sister. The times were few and far between when they were actually new but when they were they were usually the very practical and very ugly brown oxfords that I wore to school and to play in. It was always a special treat to get something new to wear because when you are the baby of the family and have four older sisters, you get a lot of hand-me-downs throughout your life. Don't get me wrong....I was very glad to finally grow into my sisters' clothes and shoes but it was much more exciting to get something new...just for yourself...something that no one had ever worn before.

Me and my shoes
So, the day came when I got "THE SHOES"....oh my goodness... it was like I had the most amazing treasure in the whole world! They were shiny black with a thin strap that buckled at the ankle and I also remember a little "bling" of some kind on the toe . I thought they were the prettiest shoes I had ever seen. I remember the first thing I did after getting home from the shoe store was opening the box, putting them on and prancing around the house in them, little white anklets and all. I felt like I was the luckiest little girl in the world with these pretty little shoes on and couldn't wait for the first occasion to get to wear them out of the house! I didn't want to let them out of my sight. That night  - and probably many more nights until the newness wore off  - I placed those shoes under my bed, at the head with the toes sticking out to where I could see them when I looked down. They were the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I saw before I went to sleep at night! If I was lucky, Mom would allow me wear them around the house for a bit but never was I allowed to walk outside, let alone play outside in them unless I was wearing them to church or some place like that.

As time went on and long after I grew out of those little shoes, I'm sure there were other new pairs... perhaps not black patent leather... and some surely handed down from my sisters with Kleenex stuffed in the toes so they would stay on my feet! I'm not really sure what made those little shoes so special to me. I guess it was because they had been purchased especially for me and they hadn't been handed down from my older sister. Back in those days, we pretty much shared everything. It was just how we lived. It saddens my heart a little that so many kids today are given so many things and may be missing out on learning what it's like to share - let alone thinking they must get everything their hearts desire.  I realize we live in a completely different world was even different for my own children when they were growing up.... the grandkids, a different story even more so.  

So...I don't know why it is that certain memories are clearer in my mind more than others. I remember some things in my childhood as if they happened yesterday and other things have gotten a little fuzzy through the years. I like to think that they are given to me by God to remind me of where I came from and how blessed I am to be part of a family who shared so much love, all under that one roof.  No, it's not just about the little black patent leather shoes that were so special to me... but the history behind them and the sweet family memories surrounding them. It was a different day and time. The world was a different place. 

The irony in all of this is that after receiving hand-me-downs all throughout my childhood, these days I make my weekly rounds to several of the local thrift stores. I sometimes even refer to myself as the "Goodwill Queen". I actually dressed up as her last Halloween...oh my, she was a sight! Now, on any given day, you can pretty much find me wearing one or more of my many bargains...and yes, I'm pretty sure you may even find a pair of black patent leather shoes in the mix!