I used to take my feet for granted.
There they were at the end of me, serviceable, pretty enough when pampered (which was rare), increasingly achy but resilient.
I was self-conscious in my skin in certain seasons. Sometimes I felt like my body was a dress that didn’t quite fit. Or my hair or eyes or lips were drawn from the wrong color palette. But my feet? They moved me from here to there, they kept me grounded, they let me dance, they simply were.
Don’t get me wrong. I love shoes. I think I acquired (inherited? nature? nurture?) this tendency from my mother, who, I’ve been told, was rather vain about her feet, which were a size 7, narrow. Even in 8th grade, when I sorted through the things left in her closet, my feet were too big for that slender pair of olive green suede loafers with the ornate, delicate bronze detailing across the top that I wanted oh, so very much to wear. I still can feel the weight of them in my hand, the constriction through the toes, the straining at the seams across my instep. I am the ugly stepsister to my mother’s Cinderella, I remember thinking, glaring, for the first time, at my budding bunion.
When I was a freshman in college, I went shoe-shopping with my dad for some brand-spankin’ new loafers that actually fit. I fell in love with a pointy-toed oxblood pair. Italian. I kid you not. My dad was of the “pay a little more, it’ll last you a little longer” camp, so we slapped down the seventy bucks for these dogs, the sure ticket for a successful college career, I told myself, and I proceeded to wear them for years, though, sure as I’m sitting here with my weary, aching feet up on a pillow, they quickly revealed themselves as diabolically painful.
My bunion, sorely rubbed by that fine Italian leather, and the most excellent pink boots from Loehman’s and those vintage harlequin slippers from the 1950s (to name a few of my favorites) got bigger. And bigger.
Perhaps seven years ago I was told by a podiatrist that I needed to have surgery. NOW.
Seven years later, NOW, this summer, June 6th to be exact, I had said surgery. A bunioectomy, which also entailed having lots of arthritic cysts shaved away.
There were about 3 weeks of this: toes above the nose, frequent icing, a soupcon of Vicadin.
Then the cast came off—whoosh! my podiatrist is a rip-off-the-bandaid-kind-of-guy, never mind that I nearly passed out and he had to recline me in the chair—and my foot was wrapped and put into a brace.
I’m in tennis shoes now, taking it as easy as I can. No dancing for me. I must be careful of the little metal nuts and bolts holding my metatarsals together, and also of the sutures that separated because I was initially an impatient patient. (2 days after surgery? Hey! I’m good! Let me help paint my son’s room Cubs’ blue, and clean up afterwards, too!) There is a reason that Biblical statue, so gorgeous and golden, was ultimately brought down by its feet of clay.
So. Here are a few solemn vows.
I will slow down, take it slow, be a patient patient. I will not take my feet for granted, and if I ever buy pretty shoes again, I will buy the right size.
Small and discreet, these elements at the end of me suddenly seem the essence of all that is important. And the simplest things, a bike ride, a walk around the block, the ability to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom . . . well, I’ll never take them for granted again.