Barefoot © 

Averyell A. Kessler 

Saturday Reprise – This piece was published in the Northside Sun in 2019.  

Barefoot is a simple and joyous concept. Might be a southern thing, I don’t know. Because I live in the age of high style, mega-bucks, multi-sports shoes, I’m not sure Reebok’s marketing department likes my assessment. I am certain the pc crowd will raise its nose in collective horror. Still, it endures because barefoot is more than simply going without shoes.  

Barefoot is the end of school as golden summer days stretch out forever and September is three years away. It’s lush green St. Augustine and patches of soft clover just waiting for children to break free of lessons, toss off their penny loafers, and dance under a bright cloudless sky.  

Barefoot is returning home from my best friend Martha’s Belhaven backyard, with dusty ankles and feet moist from sprinkler drops and flecks of newly cut grass. 

It’s mud oozing between my toes in my grandfather’s muddy pond in Avery Gardens.  

It’s racing across acres of sand on a wide Biloxi beach, then waiting at the water’s edge until the next wave rushes on shore and surrounds my feet in the Gulf’s murky water.  

Barefoot is step on a crack and break your mother’s back. It’s watching out for the sharp pop of a jump rope as it thumps on the sidewalk. It’s slipping a bottle of Elsa Schiaparelli’s shocking pink polish from Mama’s cosmetics drawer and painting my toenails.  

It’s the childhood glee of splashing in an impromptu puddle of rainwater after a sudden shower chases away the heat and bubbles glide across its surface.  It’s stepping into a blow-up swimming pool filled with chilly water from a garden hose.   

Barefoot isn’t entirely a physical concept, it’s ultimate childhood freedom at its best, an ignore the rules, unwrap another piece of Double Bubble, I don’t care who’s watching burst of liberation. It’s decorating your face with finger paint, shaking a Coke bottle until it spews, and sailing a paper airplane over the back fence. In short, it’s fun. 

Sadly, for some of us, the barefoot mystique is incurable.  I longed for it when I was pounding through downtown Jackson, in tortuous shoes, my lawyers’ suit, and lugging briefcase that seemed to weigh a hundred pounds. I missed it when my fancy heels were especially high, and a dressy reception showed no signs of ending.  On the day before Christmas and 101 things remained undone, I wished for a thick coat of mud oozing between my toes.  

A true barefoot devotee can go days without shoes. Often, she doesn’t know exactly where her shoes are or worse, when she saw them last. Barefoot is a state of mind, a welcome exercise in slow breathing and a glass of Chardonnay, a deliberate abandonment of unending busyness, as well as dwindling conversation and warm, fuzzy solitude. Barefoot is a worn-out tee shirt and frayed sweatpants. It’s reading the last three chapters of a murder mystery without interruption. It’s a silent phone and no TV. It’s the blessed chance to close your eyes and ignore the clock.  It’s a brief memory of childhood joy.  

So, here I am punching out another story, listening to Wynton Marsalis on Pandora and thinking about a cup of Orange Pekoe.  I’ve been here most of the day, writing and re-writing, as is my habit. The sky is still bright, but there’s a spring chill in the air. The room is toasty and I’m snug in a yellow hoodie and yoga pants. Best of all, my feet are bare, my toes are tucked into the rug beneath my desk, and I have no idea where my shoes are.  

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