Easter Shoes

Last Saturday, Stephanie was going to the store and asked if I needed anything.  In my world, need and want are the same thing.  I decided against asking for another thirty-eight-ounce package of M&Ms.  But it was the day before Easter, and I haven’t had the Easter Bunny show up in years.  I have to get candy on my own.

Easter brought up a fond memory.  As a child, I recall having to polish shoes the evening before Sunday morning Mass.  The shoes were placed by the basement walk-out door.  One year, there was a clothes dryer in the way. After shining shoes, my brothers and I went outside to pick some rye and fescue grass from the yard and make a little nest for the Easter Bunny.  I had made my nest right next to the new dryer.  It seems as though the Easter Bunny always brought the same damned hard boiled eggs we had colored the afternoon before.  I’m not sure that chocolate eggs were invented, yet.

It’s that clothes dryer that sparked an Easter memory. 

Mom had one of those washers that consisted of a big tub, with an agitator in the middle.  She had to use a stick to pull the clothing from the tub and push it through the wringer attached to the top of the tub.  To rinse, you repeated the process after draining the dirty the water and replenishing with clear, clean warm water.  Mom would have a rag she used to wipe off the metal wires of the clothesline, and with the basket of clean clothes, hung them on the line to dry.  It was a lot of work.  We take laundry for granted compared to that era.

One year, Mom got a dryer.  It’s one of those events you barely notice or remember, but I’m sure it was one of Mom’s greater memories.  It wasn’t there very long.  One day coming home from school, it was no longer in the basement by the door.  I never thought anymore about it.

Talking to Mom one day later in our lives, she told me the tale about the dryer.  She had bought it on a payment plan from our local hardware store.  After having it a month or so, she had to let it go back to the store.  Her boys needed shoes.  It was the dryer or shoes.  Mom went back to wiping down the clothesline, fighting the wind, rain, snow (yes, snow), and other elements like a neighbor mowing the lawn, a dirty dog roaming the area, etc.  I had no idea.

Several years later, she got that dryer back, along with a modern wash machine, but I don’t like the circumstances.  Mom went on with the story.  She had contacted our parish priest to see if the church could help.  The priest told Mom it was about time she got remarried.  Mom talked about it, calmly.  I was furious.  I was losing faith in the Catholic Church as it was, this information was a bit more straw on the camel’s back.  Unfortunately, marriage was the eventual solution she took to combat poverty. 

Since that conversation with Mom, I have given almost every year to the Goodwill of the Great Plains Shoe and Mitten Party in Sioux City.  No child should have to have a mother choose between shoes and keeping the family clean without spending an entire day doing so.  More importantly, every child should own a good pair of shoes, whether shined or not.

I’ll get my supply of M&Ms replenished this week.  Maybe I have to go outside and pull up some grass hoping for that chocolate egg.  I wonder if creeping Charlie would work.

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