Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"I'm puttin' on my top hat, Tyin' up my white tie, Brushin' off my tails."

When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to walk me to school. My grandfather was from the generation where you wore a hat and a jacket to take out the trash. Heck, he wore a buttoned down shirt, sweater vest and slacks to lounge in the house.

Every morning, my grandfather would pat on his hair pomade, put on his jacket and matching fedora and walk me 8 blocks to my school. I remember holding his hand and smelling the hair product still in his hand. It wasn’t that he had a lot of hair. He had that old man, hair on the side thing. What little he had, he kept neatly combed.

After school, the teachers would present each student at the steps and the parent/guardian would ‘claim’ the child. I remember standing out there looking into the sea of adults. My grandpa always was the most dapper of them all. He would stand way in the back, against the signpost. As soon as he saw me, he’d lift up his fedora and my teacher would let me meet him.

During our walk home, he’d ask me about my day and what we learned. Then when we got back in the house, I’d change into my play clothes and watch some after school cartoon. At 4pm, he’d call me to tea time. Tea time with grandpa was always a treat. He’d have his tea and pastry and he’d make me a toasted sandwich with tea. Grandpa had OCD and my sandwich would always be perfectly rectangular. The ham would never fold over the sandwich. The butter never melted out over the bread. Something about the perfectly cut sandwiches made me enjoy them even more. OCD reared its head early in my life.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on schoolwork and awaiting Grandma’s delicious dinner. In the evening before bed time, Grandpa would make sure I had my school clothes pressed and ready for the next day. He was the one who showed me how to polish shoes. There we’d be with newspapers on the floor to catch the droppings. He’d polish his shoes while I tried to imitate him with my parochial school Frankensteins.

I still have his shoe polishing kit with all his brushes. One set was for black shoes and one set was for brown shoes. The smell of polish to this day reminds me of my Grandpa.

Sometimes, I wish we still lived in a time where a walk in the park warranted wearing a nice outfit. Not all the time of course. Like yesterday for instance, but I’ll tell you that story another day. In a time where clothes are worn once, cut off shorts are acceptable at the theatre and flip flops are ‘appropriate’ attire, we could all use a little ‘dressing up’.