Now that I am middle aged, I discovered that I have flat feet. It's a minor problem that I don't think about mostly. If I am not padding about in my orthopaedic sandals, my feet will complain. The soles will tingle as fatigue settles in. But my feet, overall, have served me well. I remember a time, when my feet pushed me forward.
The summer that we went backpacking in Europe was loads of fun, but my feet took a beating. I only had one pair of running shoes that I wore for eight weeks. It was days of walking on stone floors of cathedrals or uneven cobblestones in town squares. I lost my flip flops among train stations and bus stops, so my feet had no relief to relax. I looked forward to peeling off my socks and airing out my toes. If we stopped at a hostel for more than one night, it became a true rest stop to unwind. I would make myself at home lying in bed with socks off, or padding about in bare feet. In middle age, I shudder at the thought of uneven ground and cramped toes – no matter how comfy those shoes are. After I returned home, the running shoes were washed, but they lost their shape and stiffness.
My right foot wasn't the same either. Back on home turf, I had choices for footwear:
high heels, loafers, moccasins and more. Each time the right pinky toe became swollen and angry. After some time, I took myself to the doctor to understand what was going on. He said I was born with an extra bone in the first knuckle of the toe. It wasn't an issue until it was jammed into the same shoe every day rubbing against the inside of the shoe, without any relief. The doctor recommended surgery to remove extra bone.
Hearing the news, I appreciated what my feet did for me. Keeping me upright or letting me run and ski. And yes, I took them for granted. I remembered my auntie and her story. It has affected every child born in our family as well. My auntie Claudia didn't take her feet for granted, as she was born with an extra toe. It was something she worked around. Looking at her she appeared to be a normal woman – maybe a little near-sighted, but no obvious defects. She was shy about her extra digit, and she would wear socks keeping it tucked out of sight. She was a serious person given to shy smiles, not the type of personality to wiggle her extra toe, making a joke or display of it.
Auntie gave birth to two children and you can be sure one of the first things she did was count their toes. She breathed in, relieved to know that everything was as it should be. But the potential of the sixth toe was like a phantom birthmark -- as if you knew it made you one of us.
But we knew the imperfection got under Auntie Claudia's skin. Buying shoes that fit properly was a struggle as it was hard to fit into a pair of shoes with the same size. Depending on the shape of the shoe, she might need a half size or even 1 size larger. Her shoes matched her sombre suits that she wore to the bank. We wouldn't know how many hours that she spend finding both compatible and well-fitting shoes for her situation. When she could afford it -- after many years of working at the bank – she decided on surgery to remove her nemesis.
She could have gone through her life with her extra toe, as she had adapted. But she decided it was a problem to be dealt with. I admired her resolve as she didn't allow it to defeat her. I try to remember that if my feet are tired or if there is unexplained pain, I don't need to live with it.
My own journey means that I am kinder to my feet as I pay attention to them more than I did as a girl. My feet supported me and now in turn, I care for them by not asking too much from them. People forget that our bodies are machines until parts break down. I may no longer own shoes for every occasion. But I consider my mileage as I go about town. As a grown woman with only two pairs of shoes, my feet point to the west with new adventures in store for me
The full article on Story Slam 2019 is seen here.
See Ryan Matin's 'Beaucoup de Stress' here
See Ross Green's 'A Loonie for Your Thoughts" here
See Rebecca Genovy's 'Honourable Mention' here
See Jenn Tatton’s ‘The Gathering Storm’ here
See Amara Brown’s ‘The Midnight Tapping’ here
See Donna Kirk’s ‘The Junk Car Curse’ here