Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Super Hero Boots

My husband was born in 1939, near the beginning of the second world war, and grew up on a farm in Richmond, on BC's lower mainland, near the Fraser River.

Families in farming communities were better off than many during the war years.  Their farms provided them with food that city families couldn't access, but farm families were still challenged by rationing. Gasoline rations prevented them from traveling any distance, and there were limited supplies of everything from parts for repairing farm equipment to the shoes and clothing much needed by growing children. 

Despite the war time challenges his parents must have faced, my guy had a happy childhood.  He grew up with a pack of other farm kids, all in similar circumstances.  They ranged far and wide on their bicycles, fished in the river, built forts in the wooded areas at the edge of the peat bogs, and played together rough and tumble, like puppies.  

Except for one child.

Down the road there lived a little boy named Barry.  He was an only child, a surprise gift to his parents, a menopause baby who arrived almost thirty years into their marriage.  He was a tiny child, and developmentally delayed, but never was a boy more loved.  His parents cherished him, and the neighbourhood kids were very protective of him. 
Even back then, my husband was a great big guy - a boy's boy, bluff, loud, and popular with the other children -  and Barry idolized him.  He followed my guy everywhere, not really joining in the play but smiling from the side lines, and trailing along like a little shadow wherever the day might take him.  

Although the neighbourhood kids were protective of him, Barry endured a lot of bullying from other children at school.  His differences from the other kids became ever more apparent as he grew up - especially when Barry refused to relinquish gum boots.   

During the war years, pretty nearly every farm kid on the coast wore gum boots: black rubber boots with bright red soles.  They were often the only pair of footwear a child possessed.  They wore those boots from fall through early summer, rain or shine.  When it snowed, they wore their gum boots still, with layers of socks inside.  When the summer sun shone, they went barefoot. 

In the 1950's, people once again began to see new clothing and shoes. Farm boys accustomed to gum boots or bare feet suddenly had access to canvas high top running shoes, and wore leather dress shoes to church on Sunday. 

But Barry loved his gum boots and would wear no other foot wear.  

And, because of his gum boots, the bullying increased.  

My fella was often kept after school for engaging in fisticuffs in Barry's defense.

After a particularly difficult month at school, Barry fell sick and his parents kept him at home for quite some time.  My guy and his sister went to visit Barry and found him reluctant to return to school.  He had no understanding about why kids were being mean to him but he certainly knew that they were being unkind.  He didn't want to go back where the mean boys were.

My husband and his sister hatched a plan:  

They asked Barry's mom if they could borrow his gum boots, brought them home, and headed for the barn.  They opened all the cans of paint in their dad's workshop until they found a tin of red paint and another of yellow, and they painted lightning bolts on the sides of Barry's boots.

My fella's dad was not best pleased to find out the kids had been in his workshop without permission, but Barry was delighted with his embellished boots.  They were super hero boots that gave him special powers.  

Like all super heroes, Barry must keep his special powers secret but if the kids at school were being mean to him he could close his eyes and imagine that he was flying away to a secret hideout.  He could use his super powers to steal their voices, making them so quiet that no matter what they said he wouldn't hear them.  

The bullying continued.

My husband continued to be kept after school for defending Barry with his fists.

But Barry?

Barry was no longer afraid to go to school.


This has been a long story and I do thank you for reading to the end.  I hope you'll hang on just a little longer, because there's an epilogue:

Barry got a paper route as a teenager, and loved his job.  

His parents passed away when he was in his 20's, but they had appointed a trustee to watch over their boy.  

The farm was sold, except for a half acre and the house.  

Barry lived on in his childhood home, and the revenue from the sale of the farm helped to provide for his care.  

Barry continued on with his paper route, proud of his job and secure in the belief that he was doing something useful.

We returned to the neighbourhood for a visit in the early 1980's and came across Barry one day, delivering papers.  He was wearing a light blue leisure suit and a brand new pair of gum boots.

My fella stopped the car and asked him "Do you remember me?"

Barry's face lit up in a huge smile.  

"Look!," he exclaimed, "I have new boots...but they're not as nice as my super hero ones."

This post is linked to Gallery of Favorites hosted by Premeditated Leftovers and The 21st Century Housewife.

Gallery of Favorites


Lovely Leslie said...

Thank you! I was feeling blue today and your story made me smile, even with tears streaming down my face, I am still smiling. Thank you! Please give your guy a big hug in thanks too :)

Aunt B said...

I'm glad you're smiling Leslie. I'll pass on the hug.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I read this tonight. It made my heart very happy. And I adore your husband now :) Thank you for sharing this most touching story with us, B!

Aunt B said...

I'm glad it made your heart happy. My fella will be too. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read it.

The 21st Century Housewife© said...

What a lovely, lovely story. Barry was so lucky to have a friend like your husband. I felt quite teary at the end of this heart warming post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Aunt B said...

I'm glad you liked the story April. It's been a favourite of mine ever since my mother-in-law first told it to me. Thanks for stopping by to read it, and for providing me the opportunity to share it.

Alea Milham said...

Some of my proudest moments as a parent have been when my children have stood up to defend other children from bullies. This is a very moving post! April and I are featuring it on the Gallery this week.

Diane Balch said...

Hi Aunt B,
Your husband is a kind soul... such a touching story. I have a sister with special needs so this is very personal to me. Thanks for sharing this story.

Aunt B said...

Thank you Alea. I'm honoured that you've chosen to feature the story. It means a lot to me.

Aunt B said...

Diane, I'm glad that you liked the story. We have a grandson with special needs who is very dear to our heart too.

Walking on Sunshine said...

That was beautiful!

Aunt B said...

Thank you. That means a lot coming from such an excellent writer as yourself.

Winelady Cooks said...

This is such a beautiful story, it gave me the chills while reading it.

Thank you so much for sharing it.

Aunt B said...

I'm so glad you liked it Joanne. Thank you for stopping by to check it out.