The deer do not understand that my Hosta garden is not a salad bar. Their deep rutted footsteps speckle the dry black mulch. Each day the Hosta shrink, cower under the trees, with their half-chewed leaves poking out of the ground, blooms long gone. I survey the damage while Luna is making her morning rounds, sniffing every inch of the yard, looking for evidence of these intruders. My toes grip and curl over the dewy grass, heels solid on the cool ground. Steaming coffee in hand, I breath in a mixture of earth and caffeine, and listen to the birds chirping, singing their wake-up songs.
Growing up in Texas meant always having to wear shoes. Lack of water made the grass sharp as needles, pricking the bottoms of my soft fleshy feet. Hiding in the dust, waiting to attack, were also armies of Fire Ants, ready to bite and gnaw at your toes. Their vicious venom burned my skin, caused welts to surface and streaks of red to crawl up my legs. Shoes were my only protection. Colorful bags and purses lined our living room wall whenever my mom hosted a gathering, but never shoes. Shoes were an accessory, complementing your outfit, showcasing well manicured toenails. Pretty feet are a sign of good grooming. On the everyday, we still did not take them off, were always ready to run out the door at a moments notice. I don’t ever remember my mom asking, “Where’s your shoes?”.
The first summer I lived in Michigan I was in awe of our green grass, yards and yards of lush lawns lined the streets. I gingerly stepped off our patio, slipped off my shoes and dug my toes into the earth. My feet breathed for the first time, balanced the weight of my body without constriction or superficial support, stood on their own. I missed Texas that first summer, feared I would never be able to call Michigan home. I felt exposed when visiting friends, worried about what socks to wear or if my toes were painted, as we lined up our shoes in foyers and hallways. No one wears shoes inside. The minute they step over my threshold, they slip them off, rest them by the front door, leave the outside waiting for their return.We commune together, bare-footed.
My feet are rough, polish is chipped and faded. A faint white stripe accentuates my dark skin, a hint of flip-flop straps. I am constantly asking the kids, “Where are your shoes?” as we head out the door for the day. Shoes are an afterthought, something to get me from point A to point B, a nuisance really, until I can pad around my house, feel the coolness of our bathroom tile and the warmth of our wood floors. In bed I can feel the sheets catch on the dry patches of my heels, reminding me of the peppermint foot scrub still sitting on the side of my tub, unopened.
My daughters like to watch TV in bed with me, our toes touching, feet intermingling under the sheets. We do not hurry to go anywhere, but snuggle deep under the covers, glad to be home. It’s hard to discern whose feet belong to who these days, they have both grown so much. My feet are no longer the biggest, but they are the most calloused, have walked the most miles. I remember years of stepping over toddler toys, piles of tiny folded laundry and forgotten bits of food launched off the table. I can picture my daughters’ toes, gripping and curling over the dewy grass, heels solid on the cool ground, learning to take their first steps.
This post was inspired by Red Writing Hood. Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. It can be fiction or non-fiction and the word limit is 600. This writing prompt is sponsored by The Red Dress Club. The prompt for us this week asked us to write about a topic very near and dear to many of us: shoes.We were to write about a pair of shoes of ours or our character’s. They could be real or symbolic.