“Susan, I want to show you something.”
Dad knelt on the floor of his bedroom and pulled open his bottom nightstand drawer. I peeked over his shoulder. He took out a small black box filled with brushes and little round metal tins. He lifted out a small pot filled with a dark pasty substance. He smiled at me.
“This is how you shine shoes, to keep them looking good and help them to last a long time. First, you brush off any dirt.”
I watched as he took a brush that fit in his hand and rubbed it back and forth across his dress shoes. Squiff-squiff! Squiff-squiff! His hand made the same motion each time, paired forward and back. It danced over the shoe’s surface.
“Now you rub in the polish.”
He picked up what had once been an old white t-shirt, now stained with many dots of polish – brown, blue and black – like the skin of a raggedy Dalmatian. He pushed the polish into the leather, making little circles as he went. I sat on the floor next to him and listened to him talk about taking care of the scuffed places on the heels and toes of his best shoes.
“We had to polish our boots every day in basic training,” he informed me. I remember thinking it sounded rather tedious to do every day. But the musical rhythm of the brushes fascinated me.
“Last, you buff off the excess polish.”
Now he wielded a different brush. He turned the shoe around and around in his hand, buffing from every angle. In true Army fashion, the shoes took on a new life under his care. This is where I got excited, my eyes wide. The shine on the wing tips put the sun to shame. I grabbed up the brush in anticipation.
“Dad, can I do it?”
“Sure!” he said, amber eyes twinkling, glad to teach me something he knew. I suppose one could look at this as him getting a bit of child labor for a task that probably fell to the bottom of the stack in his daily life. But I loved it.
And so, yesterday, for the first time in my adult life, I polished my own shoes.
I wiped off the dirt with a damp cloth, since we live in a wet climate and the parking lot at work becomes a soupy mess when it rains. I rubbed in the polish, taking care to cover the scuffs and scratches. Then I buffed it all out into a protective layer. Looking at the results, I can see I don’t have Dad’s skill. But I can get better.
This probably seems minor to many of you. And it took me awhile to come around to doing it myself. But I’m grateful. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me how to take care of the things I own. May we be able to teach our kids to do the same.
Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it. – Proverbs 22:6