The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest: 1st Place
1st Place goes to Dave at 1pointperspective for the “The Shoe Polish Chronicles”. I found this essay to be poignant with a dash of Dave’s usual self-deferential humor.
He was sent one Green Study Coffee Mug, a postcard from Minneapolis and $100 donation was made to the American Red Cross on his behalf to his local Red Cross Chapter.
“The Shoe Polish Chronicles”
By Dave at 1pointperspective
“Every time I go to one of these things, I feel like I’m just getting closer to the head of the line” – An old man’s comment to my father-in-law at a funeral they were attending.
I’ve been trying not to get older, but deep down inside, I know I’m destined to fail. The music I like, the things I find funny, my worldview, my hairline; all of them conspire daily to put me in the middle-aged-to-old-guy bracket. I remind young women of their kindly old uncles, and I remind older women that their husbands aren’t the only ones to whom the years haven’t been kind.
I exercise, when my joints aren’t rebelling against me. I try to eat right, especially when I’m not ordering off the dollar menu. I try to stay positive and upbeat, knowing that negativity can easily morph into grouchiness.
Then there was a death in the family. It wasn’t an unexpected passing, and as the years tick by, attending funerals has become a more common fact of life. I was busy helping make arrangements and tying up loose ends. I needed to get some shoe polish. The years of weddings and funerals had taken their toll on my lone pair of dress shoes. They were a well made pair of shoes. I’d bought them for job interviews over twenty five years and multiple careers ago.
I went to the mall, because that’s where the shoe stores are. At the first store, I asked one of the sales guys where they kept the shoe polish. He looked at me as if I had wondered which aisle the cheese spreads were located on. I saw the 20 watt bulb flicker on in his head, and he told me they didn’t carry shoe polish. I imagine the bulb in his head was one of those new-fangled screw-in fluorescent jobs. As I walked from store to store on my fruitless search, I recalled the wooden box my Dad kept out in the kitchen cabinet containing several tins of polish, along with rags and brushes. The box was awkward and too sturdy for such flimsy contents, lord knows where it came from.
We weren’t really a dress shoe type of family, and my brothers and I tended to grow out of any shoes before they were scuffed enough to benefit from polishing. Be that as it may, the shoe polish box was there in my head, a relic from a bygone era. I could picture it in the bottom of the cabinet. I could almost smell the polish. The box and its contents are long gone, existing only in memories.
As I repeatedly failed to find a store which sold shoe polish, I felt more and more like some sort of fossil who was trying to find a replacement needle for his Victrola. Victrola! Even my analogy was antique, in truth, I was more like a fossil trying to find a copy of The Archies Greatest Hits on 8-track or LP.
The funeral was the next day, so shopping online wouldn’t do. I finally found an old fashioned shoe store in the middle of town and picked up a tin of ox blood polish. Upon closer inspection of my shoes, I realized the entire odyssey had been in vain. Even polish couldn’t bring those shoes back. I returned to the store and bought a new pair of dress shoes and exchanged the polish for the color of the new ones.
I wore my new shoes to the funeral, knowing they would forever be linked to this passing. I’ll surely wear them to more funerals and weddings. Perhaps I’ll never have another occasion to buy a pair of dress shoes – these might take me to the finish line. In any case, I won’t likely be able to find my new tin of polish by the time I need it.
Check out his blog for a little perspective: