Thoughts on shoes
When I was a kid, it was one of my jobs to take care of my dad’s shoes. He taught me carefully, using the Kiwi wax in the little circular tins, a bit of water, a clean cotton cloth, and a large horsehair brush. I enjoyed it, actually, and he gave me a quarter for each pair. I also took care of a pair of suede shoes he had, using a smaller stiff brush and a thing we called the “suede eraser”, which was a hard white eraser with bits of grit in it.
I have been looking *everywhere* for years for one of these erasers — Target, Wal-Mart, every specialty shoe shop and shoe repair shop I happen by. Of course, as I type this, I realized I could have looked online for such a product, but it kills me to find a $3 product and then have to pay $7 shipping.
Anyways, last Saturday, while grocery shopping, I went down the non-food aisle. As a rule, I never buy non-food items at the grocery store — prices are a lot better at Target. However, we make allowance for certain things, like desparate need of toilet paper. I had put the tissue into the cart, and wheeled back to resume my food purchases, when I stopped. There, sandwiched between the emergency sewing items and the super glue was a huge shoe-care section! Included was… duh-duh-duh-duh! my suede eraser. It was $5.99, which seemed a tad pricey, but I picked it up nonetheless. (Seeing that the small kit is $7.99 on the Kiwi website makes me feel, now, that I got a great deal on it!)
This morning, I put the kit to use on some of Audrey’s shoes, and Ethan’s main pair, as well. As I was erasing and brushing Ethan’s hiker-like shoes from Target, I thought, “Wow. These shoes have held up pretty well, except for the laces!” (The laces were a loop of elastic, tightened by a toggle. The elastic snapped in the first week. I kept cutting off the frayed, broken spots, tying a knot in the remaining lace. Finally, about a month ago, there wasn’t enough elastic to make one of the shoes functional, so I replaced the elastic with “regular” hiking laces from Wal-Mart.) Then, it dawned on me that we’d gotten him these shoes around Christmas. So, here I was, thrilled that a six-month pair of shoes were still in good shape. That struck me as not quite right.
When I was a kid, I got three pairs of shoes every year: At the start of the school year, I’d go with my mom to buy a pair of “Sunday shoes” and a pair of tennies. Then, at the start of each summer, I’d get a pair of sandals. By the end of the year, it was frequent that the shoes would be too tight, too small. But I think I remember only one time when they actually wore out. (I remember it fairly clearly, because they were a pair of black and silver Nikes that my mom had paid “good money” for that wore holes in the sole well before the year’s end, and my mom was not happy at all.)
I was a tomboy — I ran hard and fast, and did most of my playing outside. Granted, I went barefoot a lot more often than my kids do, but still… I was at least as hard, if not harder, on my shoes than they are. Yet, they did not wear out.
Are shoes now just that much poorer in quality? Do I buy shoes for my kids that are more cheaply made than my mom bought for me? Or?? I’m not sure.
We were really poor — really poor — when I was growing up. But, I do remember that my mom insisted on buying higher quality, leather shoes for each of us. I particularly remember trips to Buster Brown. Maybe this was because she knew that they needed to last all year.
I find myself loathe to spend more than $15 on each pair of my kids’ shoes, shopping long and hard, comparing prices, and, yes, insisiting on leather. But, maybe I need to suck it up and pay the $25-35 a pair that it would take to get them to last longer than six months.
Speaking of shoes, Audrey practically hyperventilates at the sight of shoes. I don’t know where she got this; maybe she got the girl-shoe-love gene from somewhere else in her ancestry. I like shoes, and have a fair number of pairs. But never have I been obsessive like she is. As I cleaned a darling little red nubuck pair of hers, which she hasn’t worn in more than a month, as it’s been too hot, she clambered at my feet, trying to scale my legs and get onto my lap to get the shoes. When that didn’t work, she stomped both feet, excitedly, making little high-pitched girl-grunt sounds, “Uh-ah! Uh-ah!” When I finally finished cleaning them, I gave them to her, and she carried them around her room, admiring (and chewing) them.
After looking online for that pic of her red shoes (which I, incidentally, got unused on eBay for $7.50, including shipping), I see that there are so many cute shoes that, really, aren’t super-expensive — for boys as well as girls. Maybe I just need to do our shoe purchases online.