Thursday, July 8, 2010


Last night, when I was in the shower washing my dirty feet, I could not help but reflect on how the dirt, or other foreign matter, got there in the first place. I love to get out the soap, lather up my brush, and with joyous zeal, scrub the heck out of those red enameled toe nails of mine. The best part of this ritual is when I put my weathered feet under the running shower. I can tell how good my day was by the color of the water as it washes the debris away.

It's always the same story in the summertime.

Give me two and one half seconds, and my shoes come flying off. It doesn't matter they are sandals, flip flops mostly, I fling them off with reckless abandon. I want to feel the earth beneath my feet. Or the cement. Or the carpet. Or the cool tile floor. That's the point. I want to FEEL my connection to the planet. Shoes, who needs them?

For sure I do, but only in the snowy wintertime. I revel in wiggling my always manicured toes as they come out of my snug boots. My toes need to breathe. I sometimes have imaginary conversations with them. They thank me, I say, "You're welcome." I think I can breathe better too, without enclosed toe shoes. I feel carefree.

Sometimes, my summertime proclivity for running about barefooted can cause me a bit of embarrassment. Like yesterday.

I had a headache, and needed desperately to get my neck screwed on straight again, so off to the chiropractor I went. No call, no appointment, just "Here I am."

Good thing my guy keeps to his office hours. Me dropping by with no notice is nothing new.

"Sorry I didn't make an appointment," I say as I breeze in.

"Why should you? No one else does. Come on back."

I love Eric.

Once, years ago, I even asked him if he would marry me. His reply?

"Why would you want to marry me when you can rent me?"

Point taken.

I get escorted back to an adjustment table. He puts on the electric stem, covers me with a heating pad, and I start to drift off to my happy place.

After 10 minutes or so, he comes in to check on me. Fine. The adjustment goes very well. I'm starting to feel the blood rush back into my head. Thank you, Eric.

I get a sweet lick from his black, poo-something doggy office mascot, Lucy.

"Thanks Lucy, I needed that," I coo.

That's when I notice the filthy soles of my feet.

Of course, Eric got to see them first. Poor guy. I wonder if he thinks I am the worst slob on the face of the earth? Generally, if there is something on his mind, it comes out of his mouth. We have that kind of patient/doc relationship. Eric has been my chiro for many, many years now. He was mercifully silent today about my nasty dirty feet.

The last time I was in, I had been spray painting for hours, in flip flops of course, and the soles of my feet looked like a smashed Jackson Pollock. At least I could claim it was art related.

This time, my only excuse was, "I went to the park with the kids. Parks are dirty business."

Yeah, sure. I imagined Eric to say.

Then he blurted out, "I am the original tenderfoot. If I took off these shoes, I would be Ouch, Ouch, Ouch with every step."

I felt sorry for him. How can you know it is summer if your feet can't breathe?

Then I am reminded Eric celebrates summer in other ways. I asked him about the burnt cardboard box in the back of his pickup truck.

"You can't go down the highway with a box that advertises dynamite, or fireworks," he explains in a very matter of fact way.

Hmmm.....then it clicks. It has been only days since the 4th, and I remember him telling me he was going to the lake with some big boomers.

That explains it.

He tells me about his weekend with the boys, making all sorts of racket blowing those things up. He is positively gleeful. I am happy for him.

I muse, I only have dirty feet to show for my day.

I love watching the color of the rinse water becoming darker, and darker as it whisks away the remains of my day. I know it was a good one.

I love watching my grandchildren. After each day together, I say a tiny prayer of gratitude because I have gotten to see the world anew through their eyes. Sometimes the memories we are building together override my childhood experiences. Sometimes they run parallel. Sometimes they build totally new experiences because today's world is extremely different than the world I grew up in.

While I watched the muddy water swirl down the drain, I reflected on the many times I had observed suds mixed with mud, grass, and other debris wash away in a similar manner.

When I was a little girl growing up in Bakersfield, California I thought barefoot was normal. It WAS for me.

I remember my mother physically wringing her hands as she tried to get me to wear shoes. I steadfastly refused. I ran out of the house with them in my hand, then promptly threw them on our grassy front yard. I'd hop on my bike, and off I would go.

Nothing could make me put shoes on. Not the pebbly dirt I ran on to my friend's house, not the patches of sticker burrs that made me yell OUCH while playing on the grass, not even the boiling hot tarmac. My feet grew tougher during the summer months, necessarily so. By the end of summer, I could have taken a pilgrimage to Mecca barefoot.

Many, many nights my mother would bring out a washcloth to clean our feet before going to bed, especially if I had already had a bath, but snuck out of the house to play a bit before the obligatory bedtime.

Mother would cluck her tongue chiding me about having, "Such dirty feet for such a little girl."

I would try to wiggle away from her because, oddly enough, her washing my feet with the knobby washcloth would tickle me so much I could hardly stand it.

"You're such a Barefoot Sally," mother would giggle as she vigorously scrubbed the grass stains. "You cannot go to bed with dirty feet."

I have often heard my mother's words come out of my mouth as I ritualistically wash the feet of my grandchildren before nap time. Miss Rachel is a Sally too. I work mightily to distinguish just when and where it is appropriate to let her run barefoot. My mind calculates the risks she would face should she be allowed to run barefoot on my watch. Sadly, in the end, my own yard is the only safe place for her to feel the earth beneath her feet. Not the park where we play, not the sand in the volleyball court where she takes swim lessons, not the sidewalk path we take on our way to the park. I can't take the chance some idiot has thrown a broken bottle, or a junkie has lain on the soft sand leaving behind the needle for his stairway to heaven, or an infected someone has spit nastiness onto our path.

These thoughts swirl through my mind, and head down the drain along with the pieces of dirt picked up along my journey today.

It's bedtime. I have clean feet.

I love summer.

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