Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back-to-School Back Then

Back to school was a special affair for us. It meant that we all received a new pair of sneakers.  On shoe day, I'd walk the isles while the others were being fitted and just pick up new shoes to smell them! Not receiving many brand new things like kids do today, we truly appreciated what we did receive. 

Yes, I'd seriously stick my nose into the boxes and just smell away!

I know! That sounds weird!  To this day I love the smell of new things.

I remember when the Nike company was fairly new.  One particular year, the company was hitting the back-to-school spot big time and had a really fancy looking shoe out. Every kid, ...if you were someone special that is,... had a pair of that particular style.

Well, not that my mom thought we weren't special, but we didn't get them. I remember what they looked like to this day. They were blue with some suede,  and their smell...oh! that glorious smell!

While shopping for shoes at K-Mart that year, we thought we had Mom almost talked into a pair for each of us when we ran into Mrs. Volk. We went to school with her kids. She was adamant that no shoe was worth that much and was refusing to buy them for her three kids.

That's all my mom had to hear. Thank you, Mrs. Volk, for ruining what would have been the most glorious back-to-school day EVER!


This is a picture with 7 of us kids.  I'm the little blond in the front row. 

This is my little newborn sister, Jane, who weighed in at 10 lbs.  Actually, I was a 10 lb baby also!  My poor mother had 5 babies that were 10 lbs or over...major ouch! 

Our Catholic grade school was just three blocks from home. We had no cafeteria or gymnasium at the time. We brown bagged it.

Mom always had our paper sack lunches lined up on the order...with our names written on them. I LOVED the way she would right her cursive....beautiful and elegant. It made that lunch sack look like a million bucks!

She would send us out the door with such a loving hug, kiss and wave good-bye. Between the brown paper sack with the luxurious handwriting and the loving good-bye's, I felt like the most loved kid in the universe. As a grown woman and mother myself, I now realize that she was really happy to see us all gone for the day! She knew that peace and quiet was waiting for her.  Heck!  The woman deserved it!

And as I was ironing the other day, I recalled Mom did have an ironing lady.

You see, my mom had terrible varicose veins that steadily grew worse with each pregnancy.  She even had a history of throwing clots due to the severity.  At one time, my folks had 7 kids in uniforms.  Can you imagine ironing at least 35 blouses/shirts, 8 jumpers/skirts, 6 pairs of pants EVERY Sunday? Which, by the way, didn't include Dad's dress clothes for work nor his pharmacy jackets.  It was very hard on Mom's legs...anyone's legs for that matter.

She did save the miscellaneous clothes and handkerchiefs for my sisters and I to do.  We learned how to iron at an early age, and so I pass that tradition down to my girls.

My mom had brought to her family many old world traditions. One being that no matter how much money you had or didn't have, you should always take pride in presenting yourself. Neat and orderly says a lot about you and your attitude toward life. The word self-respect comes to mind.

We may not have had the fanciest shoes but we always walked out the door in crisp, starched, clean-smelling uniforms and brushed hair.

Call it old-fashioned or old it or not... I have to admit she was super right. I may have tweaked the same value system here and there, but my kids are being handed down the same habits. They may not have the newest in fashion...(hand-me-downs are welcomed in this household)...but they will always walk out the door clean and groomed..."As long as you live in my house," as Mom would say.


  1. I love that old photo! I have to admit there are many times I wonder what it would be like to have kids out the door in the morning for the whole day...but only for a minute :)

  2. this is a lovely look back at your childhood and your mother's "domestic church." and what a wonderful loving domestic church she made for you all. how blessed to have such good memories of our chldhoods, aren't we? love the pic and your expression!

  3. I was exactly the same in shoe stores. I stood with my nose stuck in shoeboxes.... ahhh, that wonderful new leather. You certainly brought a memory and a smile to me today. And what a tribute to your mother and her own beautiful reasons for chocolate! (I love the picture)


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