Those shoes took me everywhere. I walked the mile to school each day, rain hail or shine. If it rained I wore my raincoat and hat and my mother would pack slippers in my case so I could put my shoes out to dry ready for the homeward walk.
Every Saturday morning my father would sit on the back step and polish the family’s shoes ready for church the next day. I dreaded wearing those school shoes to church. All the other girls had pretty court shoes but no matter how much I begged my mother she insisted there was nothing wrong with good, sturdy, sensible shoes.
It was even worse when I had to wear them to birthday parties. The other girls wore party shoes; some even had black patent leather shoes. I thought they were the prettiest shoes I’d ever seen.
But school shoes I had and school shoes I wore, anywhere and everywhere. My mother didn’t believe in airs and graces, she was a practical, no nonsense mother and thought patent leather shoes were just vanity.
Maybe she was right. Maybe I should have been satisfied with what I had but those school shoes seemed like a curse worse than death to a little girl’s heart.
Looking back now I realise that money was scarce so perhaps she couldn’t afford to buy me more than one pair of shoes or maybe she did want me to learn to be satisfied with what I had.
I didn’t have that problem.
I had a ferocious appetite for books. I read in the bath, under the bedclothes by torchlight when I was supposed to be asleep and on the long walk to school (except when it rained!). I could sometimes be found curled up in a corner of the schoolyard reading at lunchtime.
The problem was, when I finished one book in the series I had to wait for my birthday or Christmas to get the next one. When one has to wait from March to December to find out what happened next, it seems like an eternity to a child.
So I read, reread and read them again until I almost knew them by heart. But oh how I valued those books. I treasured them and today, although the pages are a little yellowed with age, they are still in excellent condition.
What have we lost in our quest for belongings, in the satisfying of every want and longing? We’ve lost the lessons that only waiting can teach, patience, self discipline and the reality that not every want and longing can or will be met.
We’ve lost the joy of anticipation; we want instant gratification and in the process we’ve lost the value of things.
But most importantly we’ve lost the art of being satisfied with what we’ve got and the deep sense of thankfulness that enough is enough.
Today, consumerism teaches us that everything is disposable, replaceable and acquirable. Business is going to extraordinary lengths to give us what we want whenever we want it. Groceries home delivered, restaurant meals brought to our door, and soon if you are lazing on the couch and decide you want chocolate, ice cream or something else, a drone will drop it on your front lawn.
But when we can have it all, we lose the joy of treasuring things and I can’t help thinking it is spilling over into our relationships. Those same attributes, patience, responsibility and being thankful and content with what I have are also the foundation stones of healthy relationships.
Perhaps there was more wisdom in those old school shoes that I ever realised!