1980s park picture

How I learned to tie shoelaces with a pair of clown shoes

I remember the day I was told I needed to learn to tie my shoelaces. I was at my daycare before I was in kindergarten, so I was probably four or five in 1986 or 1987. I was in the daycare playroom, a sun room off the kitchen, and by a low table with a clown shoe sitting on it in front of me.

All the other kids were heading out the door to go to the park across the street, but I was going to be left alone in just a few minutes. I stared at the laces dangling down the edge of the table and felt a lump in my throat. I wouldn’t cry over this, would I?

Shirley, the daycare lady, stood above me and said:

“You can go to the park with everyone else when you learn to tie shoelaces.”

I might have been only four, but I remember this seeming like a really difficult task to ask me to do at the time. Plus, I felt rushed. I hated feeling rushed. I hated feeling like I was missing out on the fun because I didn’t know how to do something.

How quickly could I do it?

The shoes were kinda big and odd too. They were clown shoes, so multi-colored and not a bit like the size or shape of my own shoes. I still had Velcro on. What was wrong with Velcro?

Why was I being made to learn this alone? Knowing that if I didn’t get it I wasn’t going to be able to play at the park bothered me.

It seemed a bit mean, or strict, or unreasonable. But if this was how it was going to be, I’d have to do it. Right?

I used a pair of clown shoes to learn to tie shoelaces

I picked up the clown shoes and got busy, fumbling with one shoe at a time to separate the laces out in front of me on the floor.

I made the laces cross in an “x” shape on one, then I tucked one lace under the other.

Was that right?

No one was there except Walley I believe. He was the daycare lady’s quiet husband. Everyone loved him. He was shy, soft spoken, and he ate our green olives she tried to make us eat.

I could hear the TV on in the other room. He was probably in there watching and stayed back by me while Shirley kept an eye on the other kids at the park.

Could I ask him for help? No, better not.

I got the first part done, but the loops were next. Could I do it?

Someone said something about making them into the shape of “bunny ears” and that seemed tricky. Wasn’t there another way she’d showed me? Make one loop and then wrap the other around…

Then my memory goes blank.

I do recall walking across the street to catch up to the other kids at the park, but I’m not sure I actually accomplished learning to tie a shoelace or not. I must have done it close enough.

The inspiration for this story is not actually from any object this time. Typically I have something tangible to photograph or hold in my hands while I recall a memory or story. But this time the memory of how I learned to tie my shoes came up while writing another post called: The day I co-piloted and flew a plane at three years old. In that post I include a picture of me with the daycare lady and her husband.

Here’s that picture again:

1980s daycare in Madison, Wisconsin
Me at my daycare

I’ve also been looking at houses since we’re moving and the ones by parks make me think about that day. Parks just have this effect on kids, like it’s the best dang thing to be near one. I know for me it was that way. We had a park across the street from my first house I lived in as a kid. We loved it!

This is me at that park:

1980s park picture
The park across from my first childhood home.

My daycare lady must have thought playing at the park was a great incentive.

I’m not so sure having a crazy clown shoe was the best of choice. I know a ton of people that are terrified of clowns! I’m not terrified by them, but looking back on it, I guess I’m surprised I’m not more scared of clowns. It was a very odd pair of shoes. But show me a clown shoe and this is what I’d think of.

Show me a park across the street from any potential houses we’re considering and I think of this. It’d be a huge bonus for my kids, and maybe I’d get them to do something like… take out the trash. We’ll see, I guess.

Do you remember learning to tie your shoes? Were you afraid of clowns as a kid? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.

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