Two New Pennies

By Dee Orr

A jar of Del Monte dill pickle halves Kosher-style, a five-pack of Double Bubble bubblegum, and a five-cent Fudgsicle topped the list of my favorite things when I was a little kid. In my teenage years I added to that list a 45-rpm record player, an Angora sweater collar, and Dr Pepper. The list changed often throughout my college and young adult years. It almost dropped out of sight with motherhood and a career. Unknowingly however, I kept a little treasure from each stage of my life.

One memento from my career is a pair of penny-loafers. They are no longer considered high-fashion footwear for women, but they occupy a prominent spot on my shoe rack. They are worn and bear the shape of my narrow feet even when they are at rest. The once gold Sebago label can no longer be read; only the imprint of the logo remains to identify the manufacturer. The soles are worn and the stitching is wearing thin in places. They are polished often and worn only occasionally and always in the best of weather, as their longevity is of the utmost importance to me.

I purchased the shoes in the dead of winter, and due to poor weather, waited a while before exposing them to the snow and slush that tracked into the halls and classrooms of the school where I taught. The first day I wore them a seventh-grade boy in a morning class became fixed on them. His eyes followed my feet everywhere I went in the classroom. It became unnerving, and before long I was sneaking peeks to see if perhaps the price had not been removed from the shoes. Finally the bell rang and he made sure he was the last to exit. Stopping at the door he asked, “Where are the pennies if your shoes are penny-loafers?” I was flooded with relief on one hand and wondered about the strength of my lesson on the other. Looking at my feet, I confessed that I had simply forgotten the pennies. Shifting his books from one arm to the other he dug through his pockets able to produce only his lunch money and one spare penny. With a heavy sigh he left me saying, “I’ll be back after lunch with the other penny.”

True to his words, he returned and I stood at my door greeting a new class with first one shoe on then the other one off, as a crowd of students watched him struggle to insert two brand new 1984 pennies into the tight leather openings of my new shoes. I gave him a late pass to his next class and thanked him for the pennies, wondering if I were even allowed to accept money from a student. Before he turned to go he said, “You know, Mrs. Orr, you’re my favorite teacher.” From the look on his face, I had no doubt that the words came from the bottom of his heart. Later that day, I called his mom and told the story of her son’s generosity.

Though the shoes have been cleaned and polished many times in 23 years, the pennies have never been removed. The struggle to get them into place was too great. In the left shoe, Mr. Lincoln, though dull and covered in polish, remains upright and properly centered in the tiny opening, in the right shoe he has slid off to the right in what appears to be in a permanent state of recline. The loafers have drawn many comments over the years from “when was the last time I saw shoes like that,” to “Oh Mom, really!” But, I can handle the remarks because these shoes recall a special moment in my career.

I’m sure it’s wishful thinking to hope that somewhere in this fast-pace high-tech world a 35-year old man would ever remember me or my penniless loafers, but every time I open my closet, I remember him. Who would have thought two cents would be so treasured?

About this writer

  • Dee Orr Dee Orr is a native Texan, born in Ft. Worth, and a graduate of Baylor University School of Music. Before retiring to the Myrtle Beach area in 1993, she taught middle school music in upstate New York.

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