“Pretty, Black, Shiny Shoes” by Dean Stracener
It was in the summer of 1939, and I was five-years-old. My mother had been very sick, and, while she was in the hospital, my brother, Don, and I stayed with our aunt and uncle, and I had accidentally broken my aunt’s glasses, but that’s anotheer story. Now I want to tell you about the prettiest, blackest, shiniest shoes that I have ever seen.
My mother was doing better and had finally come home from the hospital. One day a lady, who was dressed in beautiful clothes, came by for a visit. I knew who she was. Her name was Miss Gloria, and she was married to the son of the owner of the plant where my daddy worked, and she brought her little girl, who was wearing a pretty, white pinafore over her dress. Miss Gloria told me that her daughter’s name was Alicia and she was four-years-old. Miss Gloria suggested that we go outside and play. Instead we sat down on our front steps, and it was then that I noticed her shoes. They were black and shiny and they each had two little straps that went around her ankles. I thought that, if I could have shoes like that, I would never ask for anything else, for they would make me happy forever.
Daddy worked hard; I knew that because, when he came in from work, he was always tired and dirty. He’d take a bath, we’d eat supper, and he’d read the paper or listen to the radio for a little while. If it was in the winter time, after Don and I had our baths, Mother would wrap blankets over our pajamas, so that we could sit up awhile and listen to the radio. We didn’t have slippers or robes, but we were warm and happy. When it was time for us to go to bed, Daddy would carry Don and Mother would carry me so we didn’t have to walk on the cold floor. We didn’t have much money; I knew that because sometimes at night when they thought I was asleep, I would listen to them talk – about the hospital bill and the rent and things like that. How could I ask for shiny shoes that would cost a lot of money, anything that pretty had to cost a lot of money.
So, I didn’t tell my parents about those shoes until I was a grown, married woman. Mother said I should’ve told them for they would have found a way to get them for me. I smiled for I knew that, even then as a little girl, and that’s why I didn’t tell them. But I’ll never forget those black, shiny shoes.