Guest post by Ariele M. Huff
My introduction to the joy of going barefoot didn’t come easily. At 22 months old, I was being bathed by my adoring parents—chatting happily. They’d scrubbed the whole house that day, and I was the last item to be cleaned.
Dad lifted me, dripping into a towel in Mom’s arms, and she deposited me, standing on the seat of the toilet, beginning to pat me dry while still turned toward him and continuing their jolly banter. What they’d forgotten in their tiredness was that the toilet tank lid had been left leaning precariously between the seat and the tank.
In a moment the pleasant scene turned into a life-threatening emergency as the porcelain crashed and broke, leaving a razor like edge on one of the heavy sides that sliced the length of my infant leg to the bone. I recall the blood pouring down my father’s leg and thinking that he’d been injured.
Fast forward – dash to the hospital, surgery, finally back home with a weighty cast.
Once in our door, I Insisted, as only a two-year-old can, to be put back on my feet. I remember the shock of not being able to walk (a talent I’d mastered over a year earlier). Ignominiously, put back into the crib with my six-month-old sister, I couldn’t even pull myself up by the rails as she could.
The prognosis from the surgeon: after months in the cast, then in a brace, I’d have a pin in my right leg and drag it. For the rest of my life.
However, my mother had taken dance classes from Martha Graham and remembered the healing wisdom of feet touching earth. Once the cast was removed, Mom had me up and dancing—just around in circles, my braced leg trailing. I’d hated the cast and the brace, wanting my own foot on the floor, but I had to settle for the functional one, its pink toes gripping the hardwood while the other was lumbered with a big shoe and metal rods up my leg—painful and awkward.
Daily, the record, which I still have, played with the clown track (skipping), the troll track (stomping), the giant track (long strides), the witch track (swooping), and the fairy track (flitting). Sixty years later, I can still hear, “Now stomp! STOMP as hard as you can.”
We’d laugh and use funny voices, pretend we had wings or witches hats, but never stop moving our feet across the smooth wood floor.
I treasured the time each day when the brace, shoe, and sock came off because at least I could see my own foot. Then, my mother gently drew her fingernail from my heel to toes, each time without any nerve response.
Finally, one year to the day after the injury, my mother’s stroke up the center of my foot was followed by my toes slowly curling toward her finger.
“A medical miracle,” the surgeon beamed. But I’ll always know it was the miracle of a mother who knew the magic of bare feet in movement.
Photo Credit: quinn.anya on Flickr