Terry and Marsha learned to work very hard, do it right the first time and be proud of what they had accomplished. With 6 years space in between Marsha and me, I mostly watched while they had to sweat. They could stack a cord of wood the perfect height, depth, width and length. One that would stand, a stack that had perfect straight sides. They had some hard expectations to meet with. Dad was an army sergeant and at that time think he was training boys in boot camp. He treated his family like a sergeant. Somehow I escaped or was just too little. I couldn't wait for him to come home. First, he took a 10 minute nap. Exactly 10 minutes. Then he would sit up and I could play with him. I still remember the feeling and smell of him in his white undershirt. His uniform shirt always got taken off and hung up immediately. This is when I could comb his hair making endless hairdos, parting it, waving it, slicking it and such.
He didn't seem to get tired of it before I did. He proffered his little black comb the next night, smiling a dazzling smile as he did. I knew what being the apple of God's eye meant when I first read it, for I saw myself reflected in my dad's eyes in just such a way. Usually mom would have dinner ready and we would eat around the table. The girls would clean up the kitchen, while I
watched Dad polish his brass buckle and polish his shoes. It was a ritual, always the same, done as a discipline that never varied. The results were always the same and yet it fascinated me. His shoes got spit on after the layers of wax were put on, buffed with this brush. His movements were precise and he worked at them repeating the process until they reflected our faces. Every weekday night! I was 45 when I got my first and only real professional shoe polish. It was on my bucket list. Craig gets a kick out of helping me check things off this list, so when we got off the subway in D.C. and he saw a gal smiling as she was doing someone's shoes, he looked at me and said, "want your shoes polished?" It was an amazing experience. She owned her own kiosk, loved her customers, who repeatedly came back in loyal lines. She must have spent 30 minutes making love to my shoes, restoring them to glory, and horrified at the neglect. She was delighted that we had chosen her for my first introduction and honored that she would be the check on my bucket list where it says-Get Shoes Shined. I got a lump in my throat at the smell of the polish....
In the morning before Dad left for work, he would tuck me underneath him on the bathroom sink and we would shave together. I never understood why my strokes didn't have the same raspy sound as his, even though the cream came off cleanly and in puffy clumps. We would rinse our razors, mine without the blade, in the sink full of hot water. I would clamp my lips over my teeth and stretch my chin just like he did, rinse it, and match him stroke for stroke.
Then we would pat our smooth cheeks, mine no smoother than before and breakfast would be ready. We would sit and have coffee. He would have a big cup, I would have mostly milk and sugar. It smelled and tasted wonderful. I had no idea how young or small I was in that adult setting. Love has a smell, a taste, a sound and the touch of his hard calloused hands- never to be forgotten.