I never liked my feet. My mother used to tell people that when I was little, my footprints in the sand; looked like a duck had waddled by. My foot shame grew as I did; shapely legs, slender ankles came to a grinding halt at the abomination called my feet. Nothing dainty about them. Size 9, just about as wide, and the ultimate cruelty; a second toe longer than the first.
Growing up on a farm didn’t help the situation much. As soon as school ended for the summer break, the shoes came off. We called them our “summer feet”; they were impervious to pain. My siblings and I put a lot of effort into this pursuit. For the first week of vacation we hobbled about gingerly – hot pavement, gravel, brambles – miraculously each of us declared the arrival of our leather feet. We became unstoppable; we ran like the wind, oblivious to all but the sharpest misplaced nail.
Old people’s feet horrified me. Nails so thick and curled it would take a saw to cut them, toes bent and misshapen, callouses glistening with a sickly yellow hue, veins swollen by time. I stared in astonishment wondering how some of these people found the courage to don sandals. Sure it was hot; but think of the children. These props belonged in a horror movie.
I buried my feet in the sand, suffered in shoes half a size too small, and sadly said goodbye to summer feet. I missed those summer feet most of all. My head sternly told my heart I could avoid making a bad situation worse by letting them go. It got easier once I moved to the city; before long I was doing the ouch ouch dance on hot sand just like every other city dweller.
As time passed it started to matter less and less. I found myself looking at feet with interest rather than repulsion. Feet told me a lot about the person, they posed questions, were a window into lives. I painted my toe nails, let my feet touch grass, and swear I’ve tasted summer feet once or twice. The other day my daughter said – holy crap, look at your feet. Hardly even curling my toes I smiled inside, knowing she’d figure it out someday. Once you find beauty in feet, your eyes are open to beauty in the most unexpected of places.