Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Birthdays and Christmas always meant new shoes for Linda, Gus and Tim. For as long as Linda could remember, twice a year Great Uncle Eugene would show up just before their birthdays in early March and just before Thanksgiving to take the children and Nancy for an outing.

Eugene was an older gentleman who knew Nancy’s family in the old country, a distant relative who lived in the same village of Nancy’s ancestors and family. Because so many families had been separated by war and the vast miles across the globe, even distant relatives were held in high esteem in America. Great Uncle Eugene had been in America for many years before Nancy married Ted and came to America herself. Meanwhile, Eugene’s own wife and children were still living in the old country, and Eugene treated Nancy’s children as his own.

The birthday and Christmas outings were as predictable as a visit to Santa Claus at the department store in December. They always included a visit to the Galaxy Bakery downtown for a treat at the store’s soda fountain. Galaxy made its own hot fudge and caramel fudge toppings for ice cream sundaes and was justifiably famous for its dessert sensation, the hot fudge cream puff. What a calorie rich confection - a large cream puff pastry filled with two scoops of ice cream, topped with a generous portion of hot fudge. The hot fudge cream puff was a more expensive choice than a single scoop sundae. It was rare that Nancy would approve of Linda's choosing such an expensive treat, and Linda would eat her single scoop hot fudge sundae while yearning for the hot fudge cream puff.

The next stop on the outings was the basement shoe department of the large eight-story department store. There were men’s, women’s and children’s shoe departments on the upper floors of the department store, but the basement shoe department was where the discount shoes were sold and where Nancy and her family shopped. There were still many shoes from which to choose, and it was still hard to decide what pair to buy, but the d├ęcor of the basement departments was not as fancy as the upstairs departments. For the different seasons, the upstairs departments would be decorated with whole scenes depicting the theme for each season, but the basement had only the most basic decorations.

Mom very sensibly would instruct the children to choose a pair of dress shoes as their Christmas present from Great Uncle Eugene and a pair of school shoes for their birthday present. One year when Linda felt especially brave, she asked if she could choose white lace-up ice skates, and to her surprise and delight, both Eugene and Nancy said “Yes.” Of course, if Nancy chose ice skates, then her brothers wanted skates, too, and theirs were black ones like hockey players wore. Later that winter, Nancy and her brothers would spend many hours on the great lake east of the city teaching themselves to ice skate while Mom watched from the shore. The boys quickly mastered skating backwards, but Nancy could only skate forward.

In junior high all the girls wore nylon stockings, but Linda was only allowed to wear tights in the wintertime and white bobby socks in the warmer months. Nylons, as nylon stockings were called, were expensive, developed snags and runs easily, and exposed the girls’ legs. Runs, or ladders as they were sometimes called, would require the application of clear nail polish at their ends to stop them from running further up or down the stocking. Nylons had dark seams up their backs, which were replaced by seamless nylons by the time Linda entered high school two years later.

Mom, whose favorite word was “dignity” and whose prized attitude for anyone, but especially for women and girls, was dignified, thought that at ten years old, Linda was too young to be exposing her legs for everyone to see. That would not have been dignified. One year very pointed shoes were in fashion, and Linda wore those pointed flat shoes with bobby socks, which made her deeply self-conscious. It just seemed to Linda that was a very unfashionable way to wear those pretty shoes.

Linda thought it was unfair that she wasn’t allowed to wear nylons, but she mostly didn’t mind wearing the more sensible tights that kept her legs warmer than nylons on the long winter walks to the bus stop. What was really unfair was when the party invitations began in high school, but that is a story for another day.

No comments:

Post a Comment