Ever since I could remember, my father would sit near the front door every month and thoroughly clean and shine his dress shoes. He is a meticulous man, and I assume he didn’t trust the local shoe shine boys to do an adequate job. I also think that this task of polishing a valuable item had a soothing quality to it, much like ironing does for me. Wanting to be like him, I sat by him and did the same with my pair of Doc Marten’s. They were cool back then, and I had the shiniest Docs on the block. I lacked the discipline he had (he would’ve been great for the military), so seeing him sitting with his shoes became a reminder to polish my own. After graduating from high school, I bought my own shoe-shining kit to bring with me to college, where I made it a habit to clean and shine my leather shoes to protect them against the wet snow and destructive salt of Massachusetts winters.
Once in a blue moon, my mother tears herself away from her urushi (Japanese laquerware) projects long enough to hastily send a care package to her daughter halfway across the globe in New York City. These boxes generally consist of Japanese food and snacks, and a few art postcards and exhibition posters on the bottom to motivate me to produce art. Instead of bubble wrap, she fills the empty spots with packs of Japanese rice crackers and random towels. Yes, towels. If there’s one thing I have an excess of in my tiny apartment, it is towels. Washcloths of linen and cotton, tea towels and handkerchiefs of all different patterns. “Who uses handkerchiefs anymore?!”, exclaimed NB recently as we were going through my stash of towels from my mother. “I do.” Or rather, will… someday, and when that day comes I’d like to know that I have a bunch on hand to pick from.