Julie’s post yesterday about growing up in Asbury in the 1960s and 1970s – the cards on beach, pinball on the boardwalk, and the Palace carousel with gold rings, was spot-on. I did the same things. Except I did them barefoot. I am a barefoot girl – have been so for as long as I can remember. To me, to have heels and toes mining the outside with nothing but skin on earth is one of the rudimentary pleasures of being human. It’s visceral. Let my skin feel the dirt, the grass – even the man-made earthy delights like pavement, concrete, wood, and floor. It feels boundless, worldly, and borders on the sensual. The blitheness of it all tickles my toes, then sings its way up. I feel real, healthy, alive; sure-footed.
When I was in my early teens, I would ride my bike to the beach in the summer (I was at least a mile farther away than most of my friends), barefoot. My mother used to worry about my exposed, pedaling feet against the street, the spokes, the chain. (Not an iota of concern for my bare head.) I could have potentially been out for 12 hours sans shoes. I’d go from beach to boards. From scorched soles to splintered toes. I would walk into snack bars, pinball arcades, (bathrooms!); ride the merry-go-round with bare legs and feet splayed out perpendicular to the horse. And then I’d ride my bike home. Sometimes in the dark. I think all of this is against the law today.
I still refuse to put sandals on when walking on a beach with hot-as-red-coals sand. “Suck it up!” I’d advise my kids, when they were younger, and would scream, then run towards the water.
“Pishaw!” I say to people who warn me, still today, that I shouldn’t walk across that parking lot that is rife with broken glass and rusty nails.
Even the gazillions of now-dead cicadas that own the outside of my house haven’t caused a cover-up. I just tiptoe more.
The love of going bare-footed could be a growing-up-in-the-sixties-on-the-beach thing. I sometimes feel, though, as if I’m part of a small group. I notice most of my friends and family shun it, and shoe-up. Even inside.
If there is a down side to 50-plus years of exposed feet (I never, ever wear shoes inside my house), it’s foot-bottoms as hard as pigskin, a bevy of broken, sprained, and twisted toes from years of tripping over door jams, and banging into walls without protection. I’ve inadvertently stepped on slugs, a dead squirrel; been punctured by rocks, stung by bees; slipped into a head-cracking fall on mud; sliced off toenails on steps.
But, I’m a lifer. Even come winter, there are no socks between my feet and boots or shoes. Though I may no longer ride a bike barefoot, I take my shoes off when I drive.
So, I stand by my bare feet. Forever. Yes, bury me with my boots off.