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Care for a Shine, Ma’am?
You don't see many of them around anymore. Shoeshine men were common in the 50s and 60s when I was growing up, but at least in Richmond, they seem to have disappeared from the street corners, bus stations and airports. Just a week ago, however, I was able to step back in time and shake hands with disappearing history.
I remember the shoeshine man in my hometown who had his station in a corner of the post office—an old black man with a big toothy smile, who always had a story to tell and knew all the local secrets. He never stopped talking while he worked, but you could tell he was devoted to his craft, popping his rag as he buffed. A skilled shoeshiner could almost play a tune with the snap of his rag, and for fifty cents a man could walk away with a mirror shine. I say man because I don't recall too many women getting shoe shines back in those days, or these days either.
I’ve shared before that my wife, Tanya, and I periodically kidnap each other for fun surprise outings, and just last week on Saturday morning at 8:15 I asked her if she was ready to be kidnapped. Her reply: “Can I take a shower?” I said she could brush her teeth and comb her hair and that's it.
Now there's only one woman in the world that I know of who would get as excited as a child about getting a shoeshine, and that woman is my wife. I knew it was on her bucket list to get a real bona fide shoeshine from a genuine shoeshine man, and I was committed to making it happen.
So she brushes her teeth and combs her hair, and we take off out I-64. I had an impish grin on my face, and she was pumping me with questions. Where are we going? To the airport? And I said, Maybe. You’ll have everything you need. And in a slight variation on Paul Harvey. And here’s the rest of the story (from my wife):
So, the kidnapping out 64-East today took us to RIC Airport... not for a trip to Tahiti.... But rather, for a tick off my Bucket List!! I've always wanted to get a shoe shine!!! (I know, weird, right?? Do women even do that?!). Mostly because I wanted to take that time for something special from yesteryear, to meet a shoeshine man, to see how it worked, to hear what makes him tick.
So today, Robert spontaneously gifted me the chance to meet Mr. Douglas Moody, a dear man born in Jackson Ward, who proudly told us he once received a $500 tip from Ronald Reagan from a suitcase full of tip money. Mr. Moody has been shining shoes at RIC airport for 15 years. He has shined shoes for Johnny Cochran, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston (whew! Women DO get shoe shines!!), Danny Glover, and somebody from the Young & the Restless....and now, today, dear Mr. Moody has shined MY cowboy boots, thanks to dear Robert. I loved watching Mr. Moody work and tell his stories.... But I especially loved the moment I began to share our love story. Mr. Moody stopped his work and listened. We hugged at the end, grinning, a few souls connected early one Saturday morning. I floated out on shiny cowboy boots that never looked so good, til Mr. Moody! I've got his stories in me, and he's got mine :-).
"That's one of the things I love about you, baby.... You can turn the simplest things into JOY!," Robert said to me this morning. Does this man know me, or what?!
But it's the truth! Everybody has a story, and we all become the richer if we just take time to reach out and touch one another.
And let me add, I had her boots in a bag in the trunk.
Listen to someone’s story. Share yours. You will be the richer for it. pl
See you this spring!
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