Monday, November 07, 2005

Polishing Shoes

Does anyone polish shoes any more? This almost seems a lost art in the days of athletic shoes, artificial "leathers" and easy-care suedes. Be that as it may, tonight I'm polishing shoes.

I have some experience in this area; 40 years ago I used to watch my father as he performed the weekly ritual; as a businessman often in the public eye, he dressed neatly and his shoes were the finishing touch. Always two pair, black and brown. Tuck the laces carefully inside the shoes. Brush off any dust and clinging dirt. Open those enchanting little cans with a Kiwi bird on the top, rub a soft cloth in the deep, dark swirls of waxy polish. Rub the polish well into the shoe leather, with careful attention to the toes and creases in the leather. Finally, buff the leather to a shine with a new, soft cloth.

Along with Dad's business shoes, there were white baby shoes (with a strange-smelling white liquid polish), then school shoes in browns, reds and navy. A "neutral" clear polish sufficed for all of these, and on Monday mornings, my school shoes would be shining like new, ready to walk out and face another day.

Somewhere along the way, I took over the polishing of my own shoes, and eventually, I even polished Dad's. Sometimes we would work together, with solemn father-daughter discussion or silly jokes shared as the polish was rubbed in, rubbed off. Eventually I moved away from home, and my new home was not complete until I had my own box of shoe polishing supplies. Soft cloths, a brush, and those little cans of polish with the Kiwi bird on top.

Shoe polishing was my realm when I married and had my own children. I prepared my husband's shoes when he interviewed for the jobs that took us from Colorado to California, California to Minnesota and Minnesota to Texas. I never saw it as a chore; polishing the shoes was an act of service, an act of love, and a vote of confidence.

Somewhere along the way, three children found their ways into the high topped white baby shoes, Velcro athletic shoes, and finally with a cry of triumph, the loops and tails went where they belonged and they learned the fine art of shoelace tying. The art of polishing shoes, however, seemed nearly forgotten.

Until we found ourselves immersed in marching band.

Marching shoes are black. Black leather. Black, shiny, mirror bright leather. Occasional rains and muddy football fields and damp parade marching require that the shoes be polished on a regular basis. My marching children know how to polish their black marching shoes, and do this on a regular schedule.

But tonight, I'm polishing a pair of marching shoes one more time.

It's an act of love, of service, and most of all, of admiration.

Tomorrow afternoon, my youngest son, with 150 other young men and women, will march into the AlamoDome in 4A Level State Marching Finals. They will march a carefully rehearsed show that lasts just under 8 minutes. There are no questions about where or when or how fast. They will perform to the best of their ability, and to the enthusiastic applause of parents, siblings and friends.

No one expected this in August. A 3-year-old school has no REAL expectations of making it all the way to the top, to State Competition. But they did. A combination of superb leadership, dedicated parents and children-fast-becoming-adults resulted in a competition band that defied the odds.

I will watch my son perform with joy and pride, but a sense of humility as well. His own determination and dedication put him on the field.

I just polish the shoes.