Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Walk through the bottomland, without no shoes"( #2)

Ah, bare feet. Bliss.

My mother thinks comfort is socks and sneakers, and used to change into them every day after coming home from teaching school. My father-in-law used to say that a change of shoes was as good as a rest (paraphrasing the old saw, no doubt).

I say that there's NOTHING like walking around with no shoes at all. This penchant for nude pedal regions may explain the reason why my feet are not soft and delicate flowers, like the petals of a budding rose, but rather are more like something one might find on the bottom of a pair of well-worn Thom McAns. Not lovely to look at, and certainly not anything to be lovingly stroked with cocoa butter by a muscularly broad-shouldered admirer (as if THAT would work anyhow, because I'm so ticklish it hurts to be touched in the ticklish bits), if I could find one that wanted anything to do with a middle-aged lady with very shallow pockets.

I engage in the all-out flouting of a symbol of delicate womanhood as powerful and fetish-inspiring as the strokable feet, and staunchly stand by my desire to be in skin-to-ground contact whenever possible. This extends to driving in the car, in which just before I start up I kick off the shoes and stretch my toes and kick one foot up on the dashboard. It applies to the nights and mornings I walk the dogs, despite chill or risk of cuts from a broken bottle or errant piece of knife-like pine cone. It applies even to the walk from my car into school to pick the kids up from their after-school program, which always elicits a "Mom! You're not wearing shoes! Again!"

I've had toes frozen from frost because I haven't put on even slippers to protect my tootsies from the inclemency outdoors. My heels have been harshly assulted by rocks invisible in the dark of night or early morning, sticks have rammed my instep, I've strode straight into some things that SHOULDN'T have been in my yard or on my living room floor at all (gol-danged DOGS! ding-blasted Legos!), and still I insist on going "nekkid on da feets. " Oh, yeah.

I've been this way since I was a kid, and one of the best bare feet stories I have (oh, there's a story for everything, duckies), that I feel it necessary to share with you today, goes thusly:


It was a hot summer day in the land of gray skies; it had been hot for several days in a row, so hot that the tar that sealed the seams in the blacktop of our street had started to soften and bubble. My friend and I, bored that late afternoon, had spent a lot of time up at the creek, and on walking home discovered this "goo" that used to hold the street together. We stopped, interested in the sticky black bubbles, and poked them with sticks, threw pebbles at them, and then, inevitably, began to pop them with our toes. Pop, pop, pop, over and over and over, it was like an early version of bubble wrap that somehow soothed our hot grade school brains. The bubbles mesmerized us to the point that the cars returning home from work carrying payloads of frazzled Dads had to cut to corner short to avoid hitting us two oblivious glop-hypnotized little girls.

As luck would have it, one of those cars held MY Dad, who stopped at the corner and asked what we were doing. Not being old enough to be able to craft a lie that would cover up so blatant an act as stepping in tar bubbles in front of the whole neighborhood on purpose, I told the truth. There wasn't anything else to do, I was smart enough to know that much.

Dad calmly told me to go home, and that he would meet me in the garage.

My heart sank. The garage? That sounded bad. Very bad. Nobody had been made to go to the GARAGE, before, and my knees started to shake, and if I admit this to myself, I'm pretty sure I started to cry, just a little.

My friend gave me one of those "Oh no, I think I might be in trouble too" looks, and swifted on home to whatever fate awaited her.

On shaky knees I hauled my pathetic little scared butt off to the garage, where my Dad was waiting for me, with.....

a rag and some gasoline, and instructions to wipe all that stuff off my feet and then to go wash up in the mudroom.

I'm certain I must have been shocked into guilty silence, because he said "was that fun, popping those tar bubbles?" and I replied" yes." He said "it looked like it" and went into the house to tell Mom what was going on in the garage.

The relief I felt was like a sip of icy Kool-Aid - as I scrubbed my blackened feet I could feel it shivering up my spine and knocking into my agitated brain, a comfortable breezy reprieve.


You know, It's a damned good thing he stopped me there on the street and caught me before I went into the house, becase now, looking back at it, I can think of nothing that would hurt my mother WORSE than walking with my tarry filthy feet all over her shining floors and carpets. Man, my Dad was a genius.


Heh - if I could find tar bubbles today, I'd probably still do the SAME darned thing, because you know what? It IS fun.


rennratt said...

Wow. Your dad was a genius! A little fear to make you think, but ultimately, no punishment. Very matter of fact, confirmed that your activity was fun, and prevented your mom from being upset/ruining the floors. This story just screams "my dad the hero" to me.

Erica said...

Definitely My Dad the Hero.

I too am a lover of bare feet - my own. And the bottoms of my feet have become one with the asphalt they trod upon all those years. The tops of my feet are soft, but the bottoms are hard and rough - you can actually rap your knuckles against the ball of my feet and get a hard, percussive sound. I think people like us, Tiff, are prepared for the eventual End of Days when we might be unexpectedly thrust out of our homes without shoes and can wearily plod forth, shoeless but painless, over the railroad tracks and broken glass and dog poo. We're just ready, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I join you in praise of being barefoot -- there's nothing like it!

And thanks for the memory of tar bubbles. It's yet another thing that I have tried to describe to my kids.

You always bring me to a happy place...thanks!

tiff said...

My dad WAS a genius - I try to remember his approach to parenting and apply it to my own...
Bare foot story - I stepped out of the car this morning to pay the electric bill at our town offices, and didn't have shoes on (well, I live my blog!). The town clerk was just getting to work, and she yelled "oh my GOD! Where are your SHOES! It's FREEZING!"
Which, it was, really. 29 degrees and I'm still barefoot. Felt great.

oldfriend said...

OK, not tar bubbles, but did I confess to you that I've taught my daughter the magic of stray puddles? And taking off one's clothes to run through the sprinkler? I'll join her in the puddles but my neighborhood isn't ready for the latter.