Dancing in my Father's Shoes
There is a rite of passage that fathers pass on to their daughters, often unknowingly. Who else teaches you about the art of a good fried bologna sandwich? Or for that matter, any other concoction dreamed up when desperately hungry. I loved those times shared with my father. Eating mounds of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff and topping it off with doughnuts for dessert. It wasn’t so much about the food as it was sharing the fun of it with him. Plus, we were getting away with something my mother would never allow. When all else failed, we went out for hotdogs. Foot-longs if we could find them. A trip to the beach was usually in order when the call for hotdogs and beachside amusements beckoned us.
In Massachusetts during the 1960s, the place to go was Nantasket or Revere Beach. Both had rides I loved, endless supplies of hot dogs and stomach aching quantities of cotton candy. My father would race us to the Arcades where we took our time to pick out just the right spot to shoot the clown water pistol races. My father always won despite what I assumed was my perfect aim. We moved on to ski ball, coin toss, and every other game until we exhausted every machine. We always closed out the day with a ride on the Merry-go-round and a goofy picture-taking session in the old photo-booth; or as I often refer to it now, the family photographer.
Those old photo strip souvenirs only prove to me today what I knew then; I was having the time of my life. My father was a big kid masquerading in grownup clothes. He taught me the meaning of having a good time, how to laugh and not take life so seriously. He gave equal time to discuss important issues, but a good laugh and fun were his cure-all for everything.
One day I asked my father if he could teach me to dance. He told me to place both of my feet on top of his shoes and he would show me how. One, two, three, he would glide me along the hardwood floor while I tried to stay on top of his big brown wingtip shoes. I didn’t really learn the dance steps, but it was thrilling to whirl around the floor with him imagining how graceful we must have looked.
My father always folded his clothes neatly over the living room chair when he arrived home late at night from work. I admired the sight of his suit the next morning and felt reassured that he was back safely from the big world he moved in and I knew so little about. His clothes smelled of shaving cream and Old Spice and I loved putting them on including his shoes while he slept just feet away from my view. Somehow, I thought if I had on his shoes I could master those dance steps. My small feet were no match for the giant shoes that refused to stay on no matter what I tried. It is always these simple yet unspoken memories you miss about someone when you lose them. How I miss those uncomplicated life lessons, laughing with him and those great big shoes of his.
Penny Arcade Photo Courtesy of Tom Sheehan