I spread out the towel on the floor, laid out two brushes – one stiff bristled and the other soft – took two specific cloths out of the box and lifted the jar of boot polish from the box, too, before sitting cross-legged on the floor. Time to polish my boots. Time to get lost in the sounds and scents of the ritual, one that my dad was much more committed to than I am.
One of the routines on Sundays before going to church when I was a kid, was watching and listening to dad polish his shoes. Once I was big enough, I was able to participate by holding down the shoes while he took a buffing rag to them. The rag was long and narrow and dad popped it crisply, much to his youngest son’s enjoyment; I use a buffing mitt from the goodies that hotels leave for visitors. I followed his example of using old socks to spread the polish deep into the lines and crevices of the leather. It is a satisfying process.
The stiff brush cleans the leather before rubbing in the cream. For years, I used the same brand shoe polish that dad did, but my latest taste in boots have required cream, instead of polish, to achieve the look that I like. Dabs of soft cream rubbed into the leather stirs scents. After letting the applied cream dry sufficiently, the soft brush brings out a shine with fast back-and-forth strokes that emulate my memories of dad’s ways as much as possible. The soft buffing mitt finishes the job, ten minutes of memories and lessons.
I think people cared more back then about appearances, about looking presentable. As I polish my boots, I think that I should pay more attention to them more often. Looking presentable has been frowned on with contemporary take-me-as-I-am mentality. That may be well and good, but there is something to be said about having the self-respect to look…well, polished.
My mom told me that during the “old days,” you could see by dirt on the back of men’s slacks where they would give them a quick buffing by rubbing their shoe on their calves before heading into a meeting.
Polished shoes mattered. I remember when the soles of dad’s shoes had holes, but the leather was shiny. No matter the toll on the soles, the outward appearance was positive and polished. That sounds like a good concept for life and living.