Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Good Memories

Instead of my usual griping, I thought I'd try thinking about good things in my life. Here's a childhood memory for your consideration:

My dad spent most of my life working in the restaurant business. In my younger years, he was often the manager/main cook at steak houses & various family dining places. Which meant poor Daddy had to wear a collared shirt & tie and polished loafers to cook in. (the last restaurant, where he spent 25 years as shift manager/head cook, was a casual place where tennis shoes & t-shirts were acceptable. Boy, was he happy!)

Back to the shoes. We didn't have a budget that allowed for multiple pairs of shoes for anyone in the house, so Dad's shoes got quite a workout. At least once a week, during his rare downtime, Dad would get out the polishing kit, spread out some newspaper, and shine his shoes. I would watch, fascinated, as a pair of grungly looking shoes would turn into something sleek and shiny that looked brand new in his hands.

I got up one Sunday morning, full of piss & vinegar, ready to raise hell. Mom asked me to keep quiet a bit longer. Daddy had come home late the night before and told her he had to go back on what was supposed to be his day off because a cook quit and they couldn't get anyone else in. He'd been working crazy shifts all week and needed any rest he could get.

Well, poop. I was about 8-9 years old. Not known for being a particularly quiet age, right? Mom didn't have time to play with me because she was frantically doing a load of laundry so Dad would have clean clothes for work. This was before the days of mega-cable, so there was little on TV to interest a kid on Sunday morning. We were supposed to go to the library later in the day, so I didn't have much to read.

Then it hit me...Daddy hadn't polished his shoes yet! If Mom was going to let him sleep in, he wouldn't have time to do it before he left for work. I'd watched him do it enough times that I was pretty sure I could do it too. And it was a quiet job! So, left to my own devices, I spread newspaper out under the dining table (as long as I was being quiet & out of the way, why not work in my own little fort?), got the polishing kit out of the cabinet, grabbed the shoes, and went to work.

Mom called out once to see where I was. I said "in my fort!" and that was good enough for her. She knew I wasn't the kind of kid to hide out and drink bleach or do something majorly stupid. Daddy got up and grumbled his way around the house, getting ready for work. He growled something about his shoes and I heard Mom say "Oh, no, I forgot about those. Who's going to be looking at your feet anyway?"

Dad growled a little louder. "Don't care how they look right now. WHERE ARE THEY?!?"

Ulp. It's showtime! "I've got them, Daddy."


Mom lifted the edge of the tablecloth to reveal me. I silently passed the shoes out to them, hoping I'd done a good enough job.

" What the...." Silence. Uh-oh. The tablecloth lifted again and my dad peered in at me. "Boy (his nickname for me), get out here."

I crawled out. Both of my parents were staring at Dad's shoes in astonishment. "Did you do this."

*swallow* "Y-y-y-yes, sir."

"I'll be dipped!" Daddy rarely swore. "Thank you. Did a real nice job on those! Looks like I'd done it myself!" Then he hugged me.

Whew! I wasn't in trouble! Mom asked me how I knew what to do and I told her that I always watched Daddy do it, so I just did what I'd seen him do...only in my fort instead of on the table. Then I saw the look of panic in her eyes and heard my dad snicker. I realized she was wondering what kind of unholy mess I'd probably created, and quickly said that I'd put newspaper down first. Daddy kissed us both goodbye and told Mom not to be hard on me if I'd made a mess. He left, Mom heaved a sigh and knelt down to see what kind of damage I'd done. Imagine her surprise to discover that the worst of the mess was on me!(and more easily washable) "Wait a minute, and I'll clean it up, Mommy."

Just like my dad, I closed the tin of polish and made sure the lid was tight. I folded the buffer rags and tucked everything into the kit. I carefully folded the paper so no polish got on the carpet or furniture and took everything to the kitchen. The polish kit went back in the cabinet, the paper went in the trash, and my mom almost cried. "That was a very sweet thing for you to do for your daddy. And cleaning it up was a sweet thing to do for me. If you'll go take a quick bath, I think we might have time to get some ice cream before we go to the library."

And we did! (Baskin Robbins coffee in a sugar cone- my favorite at the time. Yes, I was an odd child)

For some time after that, polishing Daddy's shoes every week became my job. I don't know why I enjoyed it so much, but I always liked doing it. And Daddy would always look at my finished handiwork and tell me it looked as good as if he'd done it himself...

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