For a Catholic school girl relegated to wearing a uniform every day, choosing school shoes was a big deal. They were your only real venue for expressing yourself. They told your classmates who you were and what you were all about. In my day, athletic shoes weren’t permitted. Your school shoes had to be “dressy” enough for Mass, stylish enough to fit in with your friends, practical enough to make a fast getaway if a boy flipped up your skirt, and sturdy enough to send a kickball soaring into the outfield. Plus, they had to fit comfortably and leave room for growth without looking like canoes. A tall order for a humble pair of shoes! Which meant a long day for the person doing your fitting and trying to close the sale. God bless the patient salespeople at Januzzi’s who treated me like a princess as I wrangled with my annual footwear indecision. I still remember their back-to-school jingle on the radio: “Follow the street to happy feet, get your shoesies at Januzzi’s!” My favorite school shoes ever were called Armadillos, which looked like the Doc Marten’s shown above. I can’t believe they’re back in style.
Summer’s but a dying ember,
August fades into September,
and with fondness, I remember
trips to buy my school shoes
No lunchbox or pencil case,
set of crayons or jar of paste
could bring a smile to my little face
like picking out my school shoes
The store lay in a weird dimension
free of adult condescension
where salesmen gave their full attention
to fitting kids for school shoes
To be measured, stand up straight,
heel to the rear of the sizing plate
Right foot, left foot, width and length.
Then, to the back for school shoes
Stacks of boxes around me rise
a huge selection, personalized
to the styles and colors in my size
Time to try on school shoes!
Buckles, laces, leather, suede,
slide them on and then parade
past the mirror, each surveyed
Which would be my school shoes?
Favorites make the second round:
tiptoe, two-step, stomp and pound
Where fit meets fashion, there are found
my Cinderella school shoes
Neatly wrapped and boxed away,
up on my closet shelf they’d stay,
kept pristine ‘til opening day
And ready to run for the school bus!
As the child of a teacher (dad) and former valedictorian (mom) whose frugal living habits afforded me the luxury of parochial school, I have a soft spot for education. I regularly donate to educational charities for children, especially in Third World nations where a year of school costs less than $50, the price of the uniform required for attendance. Ignore the naysayers; even small donations, when added together, can change a life. Take a couple moments to watch this favorite video of mine; the look on the little girl’s face literally brings me to tears.
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