Almost everyone I know has some type collection, even if it’s an unconscious effort. Mine is vintage shoes. For me, they are an Art form and it ranks high on my list along vintage cars, a collection of which I cannot afford but would love to have. I wear my vintage shoes carefully and rarely on the pavement. They make up at least half of the fifty or so pair of shoes that I own. Some of my friends jokingly call me Imelda Marcos, although I will never come close to the number of shoes she owned, compliments of her oppressed subjects! Once in a while, I take them all out of the closet to clean and admire them. It’s a silly but fun pastime, one that distracts me from the fierce economic storm that rages outside.
The way I look at my shoe collection recently changed in a big way. I now fuss over them with a whole new perspective and appreciation. One evening I arrived home weary, disillusioned and pessimistic. I had stopped at the store on the way and carried a single bag of groceries that totaled over thirty-seven dollars. Not a loaded grocery bag, mind you. After greeting, feeding and fussing over my two feline children and plunked down on the sofa to watch the nightly news. While shuffling through my daily mail, I vacantly listened to the TV until a report from New York appeared. Ah, New York! Rockefeller Center at Christmas, I thought. The report was about letters to Santa Claus and my mind drifted to the adolescent Natalie Wood in the movie Miracle on 34th Street. Now that caught my interest: kid’s letters to Santa. Bring it on!
A pleasant looking man, a postmaster was being interviewed. His thick Queens accent warmed my east coast heart. Mr. Postmaster explained that record numbers of letters for Mr. Claus had been received at his post office and throughout the city. Almost forty per cent were from parents this year! Natalie Wood skipping to mail her letter to Kris Kringle faded from my mind’s eye. The broadcast continued with the reading of several letters. Rather than asking for the Toy du Jour, kids were asking for clothes and shoes and help for their parents. Mothers were asking for food and shoes for their kids. I felt my gut wrenching inside. One child, the oldest in her family, listed her three siblings’ names and ages, right down to the eighteen-month old baby. Each and every request was for shoes and coats, and she had carefully listed their sizes. She closed the letter by saying “maybe a little bit of toys, but only if you can”.
The times. they are a-changing. Our children are becoming adults too soon. There are too many of them being robbed of a carefree holiday and visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. In some ways, these kids are like children of war: fighting for just the essentials, asking favors for their loved ones first. A bit guiltily, I felt like a queen in my castle-rambler, tucked away in a treed cul de sac. I was one of five siblings, but my working class Mom and Dad always found a way to make our Christmas dreams come true. Mom used to say she had to “rob Peter to pay Paul” sometimes, but that it all worked out in the end. The times, they are a-changing.
I cried at the end of that news report. I may not have a penny left when I pay my bills, but I have a house and a car, and my car has a house (the garage). Gratefully, I have not been able to put that news broadcast out of my mind. My family and friends have taken on a renewed value for me. A worn-out adage: be grateful for what you have and stop grumbling about what you don’t.
I plan to start a new collection: kid’s clothes and shoes. And not just during the holidays. Oh yes. The times, they are a-changing.