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A Homecoming Remembered

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.47.14 AMThe perfect suit hung in my closet. A three-piece wool suit Mom had made. Two-button jacket, A-line skirt, sleeveless top – all lined. We coeds dressed up for Tennessee Tech Homecoming in the late 1960s.

I loved the fabric of my suit – dull, rusty orange with flecks of gold and brown. But I didn’t like that the only dark-colored high-heeled shoes I owned were black. Mom thought they looked fine with my orange suit. My friends agreed with me that I needed brown heels.

During a gathering at Boyfriend’s (who is now Husband) fraternity house the week before Homecoming, I whined that I wanted new brown shoes to wear on Homecoming day. I wore an 11 AA, a shoe size not available in Cookeville, but I knew several stores in Nashville where I was sure I could find the perfect shoes. I didn’t have a car, and Boyfriend, who did, couldn’t take me shopping because he worked on weekends and after classes.

However, Boyfriend’s fraternity brother, Jim “Worm” Miller, heard my whining and offered to help. So on Saturday morning, Worm and I took off to Nashville so I could shop along downtown Church Street. We walked from store to store. Worm was patient and insisted that I try on many pairs of shoes, even ones that weren’t brown or high heeled. Finally, I bought a pair of leather, 1½” heels with crisscross wide straps and the perfect color, not just brown, but dark caramel. I was so proud.

On Homecoming morning when I put on my new suit and shoes, I was happy and felt good about my whole outfit. Even the cloudy, rainy day didn’t dampen my spirits. Boyfriend pinned a yellow rose corsage on my lapel, held an umbrella over our heads, and we walked across campus from my dormitory to the football stadium. Although it rained during the game, no one considered leaving. We put on raincoats and huddled under umbrellas, and my feet, and everyone else’s, got wet. Soaking wet.

Late that night when I finally took off my shoes, I poured water out of them and stuffed dormitory bathroom brown paper towels inside each shoe. I expected them to dry and be as good as new. Days later when my shoes finally dried, the shape was fine and I could wear them, but wavy lines and spots marked the leather. I scrubbed with leather cleaner and shined with clear shoe wax – caramel colored polish wasn’t available – but I couldn’t hide those ugly watermarks. My new shoes were ruined and I never wore them again. I hated that I’d spent so much of my clothing allowance for shoes I wore once, and I was disappointed that my beautiful shoes turned hideous.

You’d think I’d be the only person who’d remember this shoe story, but Worm never forgot. The times that I’ve seen him during the past almost fifty years, he always asks if I ever bought another good-looking pair of brown shoes. And then he reminisces about taking me shoe shopping and how I ruined my brand new Homecoming shoes in the rain. But neither of us remembers who won the football game.

Tech’s Homecoming is Saturday. I hope Worm and many other friends come for the weekend. We’ll laugh and tell stories of our college days. That’s what Homecoming is about now. Friends. Football. Stories. Laughing. Catching up on life.

And it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a new suit or shoes to wear.



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