The Blue Suede Shoes and A Woman of Valor
We were poor when I was a child. Of course, we did not realize we were poor because everyone in the neighborhood was basically in the same income range. We had a nice house, called a row house, not a townhouse as called now. We had food cooked from scratch. I never ate a pizza until I was eighteen years of age. My mom made everything all homemade except for fresh bread which was bought at a local bakery.
My brother who was five years older and I would walk five blocks to this very special bakery called Silbers and we would get a loaf of white or rye bread and they had a special slicing machine and sliced it freshly to order. We would get twelve raisin buns at the cost of two cents each and on the way home we would each eat one heel from each end and a raisin bun. When we returned home, mom would say " I am going to call Mr. Silber and ask him where the heels are and where are the two buns." She was only kidding because she knew that Herb and Elita had devoured them with great love.
Now days, children have to be given fifty dollar Play Station games or thirty dollar toys to satisfy them. We did not get a television set until I was fifteen and then we thought we were millionaires because we also got a large window fan installed to cool the whole apartment off. We knew the joy of these gifts and were so happy to have them
When I was about fourteen, I saw a pair of blue suede high heel shoes with a very sexy looking ankle strap. I yearned for it and mentioned to mom that they cost twelve dollars and ninety five cents. No sales tax in those days. I knew we could not afford them because things were so tight financially that Mom was working as a typist in an office four days a week. She would type envelopes for a company that was an advertising firm and she was paid by the envelope. At Christmas time, the boss gave them each a two pound fruit cake and even though we never wasted food at all, we gave this awful tasting cake to our next door neighbor who loved it so much. One day before Christmas, Mom said to me that she wanted me to meet her downtown at the main street of department stores on a Thursday night. So I got on the bus from school and met Mom who was coming from work and that is why we met that way. We had a nice dinner at a cafeteria called Horn and Horn where we walked up the aisle at each station and grabbed what food item we wanted and then we rolled our tray to the cashier and paid for each item. Then we sat at a table and devoured this fresh and wonderful feast. We did not go out to eat many times because the price for four to eat out was quite out of our financial range.
Mom said to me, letís go and try on those wonderful blue suede shoes . I was amazed at even the thought to try on these shoes. Little did I know, that Mom intended to buy these for me for the holiday season. She tried so hard to give me the nice things she knew I wanted but never asked for. I tried them on and she said to the salesclerk, wrap them up, we will take them. Oh my, I felt like Cinderella at the ball. I was a princess in these blue suede shoes. Now, when I look back they remind me of ballroom dance shoes that I wear sometimes to dance in. Of course, now my feet are full of corns and bunions and are not the slim triple A shoes of those ancient days. I still can feel the glorious moment when Mom said let us buy them.
Mom herself could not dress in expensive clothes though she always looked nice in her dresses even though they were modest in cost. From all the typing she did on a manual typewriter ( in those days-no electric or computers yet) she would wear out the underarm material. She devised a way to keep on wearing those cute little dresses by patching the underarms and by sewing them by hand and hardly anyone could see she had done that. Oh my wonderful and darling mom. She had money to spend on a fourteen year old with a pair of almost thirteen dollar shoes and she wore patches under her arms.
When she died, we put on her tombstone "A Woman of Valor" because that is what she was to all of us and on October" nineteenth, 2005 , she will be gone twenty-one years. Dear Mother who taught me how to be a good mother, I shall never forget those blue suede shoes you bought for me and the dinner at the cafeteria that night. I shall never forget thou love for me and in return my love for you. I guess you knew someday that your daughter would always remember those beautiful suede high heel shoes which was really a prelude to ballroom dance type shoes. A woman of valor, a good mom and so very much missed. I shall never forget you as a mom, then a grandmom and for three years a great grand mom. Now my children have children and in the Jewish tradition of naming a newborn after a loved and beloved deceased person, both my son and daughter have named their children in her memory.. So this wonderful woman of valor is alive in these great grandchildren, my grandchildren..
The blue suede shoes are still safely boxed in my cupboard all these fifty some years. They may not fit but they are there in tribute to this woman of valor, my mom Lea Weinstein Sohmer.
Elita S. Clayman
October 18, 2005