“Why had feeling poor hurt so much when I was a child?”
Part of it was those ugly saddle oxfords and homemade clothes. Details flooded back, far too many details, details that would have been better forgotten but which were instead so deeply embedded in mind and feelings that they played automatically, a continuous loop of hurt, disappointment, and embarrassment.
“The first memory I have of feeling poor was having to wear those ugly shoes.” That memory felt like a fresh bee sting. Growth spurts had begun in fourth grade. The only girls shoes in my size that stood up to my tomboy habits were thick-soled saddle oxfords. Other girls my age wore trim little Mary Janes or skimmers that at least partially retained a new appearance. The white surface of my saddle oxfords, however, gleamed in glaring white uniformity for half the first day of wear. Thereafter the scuffed inner edges of the heels and scraped outer edges of the toes bore evidence of my high impact contact with desk legs, graveled roads, and bicycle pedals.
With time, the broad expanse of the toe box acquired two sets of wrinkles running from side to side. Those dirty brown parallel lines remained, no matter how many coast of liquid Kiwi polish I inexpertly applied. The black saddle of the shoe had more luck at retaining its original condition although it, too, assumed a pathetic appearance as progressive layers of the liquid white shoe polish left smudges at the edges.
Looking down at those big ugly shoes, being the tallest person in class, not just the tallest girl, and wearing homemade clothes had hurt. I remember looking at my shoes, kicking through leaves while walking to school and thinking, “It’s because we’re poor, it’s because we’re poor. . . ”
I thought about Sharon. Her clothes were purchased with birthday money or when relatives helped out with a shopping trip.
“Could she be feeling the same way I did? No, not yet,” I decided.
I knew what was going on in Sharon’s heart. We had a daily habit of sitting together on the couch reading, and before I opened the Dr. Seuss book for the week, I tapped her chest lightly and said, “Tell me what’s on your heart, sweetie. How was your day?”
Sharon and I were close, but I would have to renew my vigilance. She was growing and her feelings would be changing as her awareness expanded. I straightened the papers in my clip board and returned to analyzing why feeling poor had hurt so much in my own childhood