My own feet are the standard by which my children move throughout the spring, fall and then an almost too long summer. I have always found being barefoot to be not only comfortable, but a signal of summer life: easy, no shoes to look for, and more importantly no need to root through an overflowing closet stuffed with winter coats, cleats, and tennis racquets intermingled with wrapping paper. My flip flops are a fairly standard staple too but to find them, again, is such a hindrance. Particularly for the mother who doesn't live by a clock and values timeliness as much as she does regular exercise. Nope, after a long year of racing the clock for school pick up or therapy appointments, to do's come to a stand still as does the shoe requirement.
Not only do I encourage bare feet to explore our downtown businesses, but also the brick sidewalks, damp grass, rough concrete walks etched with decades old initials, and the black asphalt of rough parking lots behind main street. We make our way to the old playground with the once cutting edge rubber square surface that will turn your feet as dark as a freshly blackened stove (my primitive takeaway from Little House books). Yes, the bottom of feet turn such a deep shade that they can leave footprints virtually anywhere. The sandbox does help lighten them a bit and by the time we have tromped back home through the grass, they are no longer the stark antithesis of clean.
Those grubby feet march upstairs, their quickness depending on whose owner controls their movement. My oldest son takes two steps at a time, my next son takes rapid loud short steps and my daughter stomps her way up, usually pronounced with audible huffing to protest the instructions that travel with bedtime. The littlest is Amos and he is the hare of this group, nice and steady if he chooses to hang on to the bannister while he brings one foot at a time, lifted up to each step where they both meet briefly and then, continue on their careful journey. Crawling is his other method of choice and this is a bit safer and provides for a more rapid ascent.
On the evenings described whence we take our neighborhood under careful scrutiny, we often stay out late with the knowledge it is not a bath night. While I may sporadically wipe Amos down with a wet wipe, mouth, hands, and feet in that order, I do absolutely nothing in terms of diluting the dirt on my three older children. This is met with such horror by one friend in particular that I am aware it may not be the norm. Why not? Grubby feet are just that, dirty soles and delectable toes that leave an imprint of time well spent outside. A mark of freedom and not one I am quite ready to relinquish myself. I will remember dirt stained feet, black soles, dried mud between toes and I will smile when I am old and close my eyes and think of the grubby feet that dominated the summer childhood of four children and my motherhood.