Friday, January 15, 2010

I've Gone Shopping for Shoelaces

After my mother died I and my siblings went through one of life’s most invested rituals, of going through her possessions and dividing them up amongst ourselves.  One of the things that I came across at the time was a small cardboard box containing several items that were identified as having at one time belonged to me as a boy.  Among the toys and childish ephemera was a pair of small brown leather shoes that had originally been worn by my older brother Frecky, and then handed down to me.

I grew up in such a time, world, and family that “hand-me-downs” were expected to form the nucleus of my wardrobe as the youngest of four children.  It wasn’t until I went away to boarding school in my mid-teens that the majority of my clothes were actually bought for me new from a store.  Up until then almost everything I wore--except for socks, underwear, and shoes--was either handed down to me from my older brother, acquired at the Junior League “Nearly New Shoppe” where my mother used to volunteer, or bought at the annual jumble sale at the country day school that I and my brother attended.  Why buy a new pair of Brooks Brothers khakis for Reggie when perfectly good, sturdy ones that Frecky (or others) had outgrown were sitting on a shelf, unused?

I recently came across the little shoes again when rifling through a drawer in the secretary-bookcase in our Snuggery at Darlington, and pulled them out to examine them.  Unlike the crude children’s shoes made today with plastic soles and Velcro-closings, the shoes I had worn as a child are a marvel of construction, beautifully made and sewn with tiny stitches, miniature versions of expensive, bench-made grown-up shoes.  I wish more of the shoes I own today were as well made!  However, my little shoes were a bit forlorn-looking, having lost their laces long ago.

My poor little unloved shoes

I decided that I would rectify this and place them on top of the chest of drawers I use in our bedroom where I would enjoy seeing them.  But that was more easily plotted than executed.  I brought the shoes back to the City with me and one day during lunchtime went to find a pair of laces for them.  My first stop was a shoe repair shop near my office that had nothing so diminutive as to fit my little shoes, and I returned to my office with my mission unaccomplished.  My next stop several days later was a carriage trade children’s shoe shop on the Upper East Side, but they didn’t even stock extra laces, much to my surprise.  However, they referred me to a shoe repair shop in the neighborhood as a possible source, but cautioned me that it was unlikely that I would find laces for my shoes anywhere because “they don’t make them like that anymore.”  Fortunately the proprietors of the shoe repair shop had a shoebox of discontinued sets of laces under the counter, and I found a pair among them that fit my little shoes perfectly.  They thought it was a stitch that the shoes were mine.

So much better, thank you

Don’t you think my little shoes look quite spiffy in their new laces?

Photos by Boy Fenwick


  1. Indeed they do. I'm easily pleased by missions accomplished too, such as finding the LIGHTBULBS I was fearful of not being able to locate in Thailand. I bought the shop's entire stock of the type I require, albeit only 35 or so, but it should resolve the problem for a while, as they are needed only for three lamps in the flat.

  2. The are perfect. I have my my sons brown "Mary-Janes" from when he was little-{his Father nearly had coronary when I would put them on him}. All polished and handsome, they sit on top of a table in the den.

  3. I think that is a neat story and yes, I did the same thing when my mother died -- finding an old watch that belonged to my grandmother that I thought I had lost (on purpose because I really wanted a Mickey Mouse one) but mother must have found it and saved it. Not letting me know she did (And no, I didn't get the MM watch!). I'd put them on my dresser as well -- they are a great memory of childhood and no, they don't make them like that anymore. Even things that cost $$$ aren't that well made, it seems.

  4. Oh Reggie. I had to wear brown shoes like that as a child. We called them Oxfords. They would not make me wax nostalgic though, were I to find them. For a girl growing up in California in the 60's they were torture:). My apologies for responding always to your posts with, "And about me..," but the shared background calls up so many memories.

  5. They are incredibly dear. A treasure.

  6. What a lovely treasure. I'm happy you were able to track down the laces.

  7. Well done, Reggie...the polish looks good too!

  8. there is something about looking at your own little shoes that is not only sweetly nostalgic, (yours much more so than a pair of 1970 thick white un-aesthetically pleasing summer sandals i have) but at the same time quite frightening. as in did those little shoes know when you pitter-pattered about around in them how life would unfold? the joys, the sorrows? how their would bo so many twists and turns? agreed, your shoes are quite spiffy. don't let the handsome master pompey near them, he might like to play and sink his little teeny teeth into them.

  9. so cute, they don't make anything like they used to!

  10. Reggie--- LOL.... I'm so happy to read your blog! I love it! Please add me to your list. hazel h.

  11. I must say Reggie that you are a surprise. very enjoyable. I have an advantage I can still fit into some of those shoes. I have been that same height since I was 10 years old.And as a side, The post on the theater had me rolling down the...

    Thanks to The Preppy Princess and LPC for the introductions.

    Always Bumby

  12. Columnist: So glad you found the lightbulbs

    LPC: My school uniform at the country day school I attended required us to wear brown oxfords, too, but that was after I had long outgrown these wee little toddler's shoes. Comment away!

    Soodie: In my case not so much frightening, but rather wistful...great observation.

    Anonymous: Is that you, dear Hazel? Am not sure of what list you mean, do advise...

    Bumby Scott: Welcome, I have read your blog with enjoyment as well, found it through LPC. Do come back often.

  13. So sweet that you still care about your childhood shoes. It would make your mother very happy I'm sure.


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