I lean over to the turn off the water and my hands cover half of my left foot. I look down and a flash of memory with all of the twisting of the water, my foot looks just like it did when I was a baby. Small and soft with fun, flexible toes. I used to like bending them all the way back – just because I could. I try it again now and feel them lock half way protesting. Ouch.
I put my hand back to block my foot and tried to remember again. I have quite a history with my feet.
When I was a baby, and well up until the age of six, I sucked my big toe rather than my thumb like all the regular insecure kids. I had an incredible flexibility and when our nightly time came to watch television as a family, I would arrive in a nightgown, with my blanket, always barefoot, sit on my chair and my toe would just sort of “pop into my mouth, unbidden and unassisted by my hand. I could stay wrapped all around myself in a ball for hours. Eventually of course my parents put me into gymnastics before yoga was popular.
There has been a lifelong battle in my family to get me to wear slippers
But I am barefoot at every possible opportunity, in every conceivable climate.
I keep my eyes closed and let my hands travel along the lines and hard bones of my foot. I arch them upwards and feel along the ridges. Another memory as I recall my 14 year old basketball shoe clad foot, taking off in mid air on a court and coming down hard, sideways, and with a resounding crack that made the gym momentarily hush. My bones shattered my brain in denial. I played a few more minutes before my leg gave way. I watched as my foot expanded beyond belief as I was ushered away to the infirmary and finally the hospital. I remember my father arriving from two hours away, worried and drawn looking, there just to make sure they took good care of my foot.
My toes stuck out of a cast in the winter for nearly ten week. My cold toes, which now could not even wear a shoe or slipper if I wanted to.
I remember my feet high above my head as my horse does a well-rehearsed sudden stop and I am propelled at lightning speed through the air, high enough to actually have time to consider and concern myself with the tumbling of my body before I come crashing down with a resounding thud.
My first thought is can I feel my feet?
I remember my feet in different places now. Beaches and mountains and trails, oceans and rivers and lakes. Cold places and hot places. Boats, trains, planes. Horses, elephants, camels…in deserts and jungles. My feet have been in rich places and poor places.
I remember times when my feet were clean; in my graduation shoes, all beautiful and old pink lace, handmade and dyed to match my incredible dress. My feet looked grown up – ready to dance like Cinderella, only to revert back to their naked dirty ways by the first or second club we crashed after the formalities of grad were done away with. I have, more than once, given my shoes away to people on the street just so I can be barefoot again.
I remember my first wedding shoes. I looked down at them as my father and I danced to “What a Wonderful World” so he wouldn’t see me cry because I knew it would be the last time we danced
I remember my feet in the stirrups looking very far away as the doctor, a comedian, sat at the end of the hospital bed with a baseball glove and said
I pushed so hard; I thought my feet would just pop off the ends of my legs. But no – something else happened instead.
Just when they started becoming a little dull – my feet learned to play again.
Especially in the mud with my kids. These were the most special times. The first warm-enough day of spring when it was ok to take off the layers and layers that cover me from head to toe, kids in diapers, muddle puddles and wild abandon. Happy feet. Content feet. Completely in-love.
My husband’s scratchy toenails (see picture!) sometimes wake me at night, but mostly his feet play quietly with mine, unconsciously apart from us and comforting and warm like a rhythm we know so well.
Lately my feet have been sad. They have stood by my mother’s sick bed and her final places. I have looked at them allot – but they don’t tell me anything. They just give me a place to look when looking up just seems to hard. Often, they have walked alone and with too many people all at once. My feet have been covered mostly since then. There hasn’t been much time to let them come out and play.
When we lived in Africa, I would terrify her with my bare feet. This was not a habit of white kids – somehow the black kids were immune and happily I was too apparently. I loved Africa. My feet were so happy on its hot red soil, alive with a richness that has been long lost here.
Lately since living on a farm anyways, I have abit of an obsession with keeping my feet happy. Most farmers harbor a secret set of rules and protective methods for their feet. But this isn’t something we talk about except amongst ourselves I think. Talking about what to do to keep your feet warm in a barn that is minus thirty five degrees while you clean out stalls – is not talk for common folk I’m afraid. You’ll have to get frostbite and broken toes from snippy jittery horses on icy treacherous February footing more than once before you can get into that club.
Now, I have to admit, my feet are always in socks, and slippers. It’s January now and I am starkly aware that I can only visit my feet when I take a bath but then I understand that they won’t get to really come out and play until GARDEN TIME – of course this is the best time! Happy dirty toes busy in the warm sun.
My husband says often in the summer
“Ah, mom had a good day – her feet are dirty.”
It’s the truth.
Good thing I stopped sucking my toes