Thursday, May 06, 2021

Life & Style

If the Shoe Fits

Summer has always meant a lot of great things. Sunny skies, beach roses, barbecues. The best thing about summer is and always has been kicking off my shoes.

As a child I would take off my sneakers on the last day of school and wouldn’t put them on unless I absolutely had to do so. Sometimes even when I had to do so, I still didn’t.

At least once every summer there would be a cry from the back of Godzilla, our enormous wood-paneled station wagon.

“Auuuuughhhh! I forgot my shoes!”

Rare was the foray from our bungalow on the Delaware River into civilization and rarer still was my actually remembering that I needed to put on footwear. And so, I’d wait in the car while Mom went into the local supermarket to get what we needed for the week. These were the days when waiting in the car by yourself wouldn’t get you stolen by a stranger or your mom reported to Child Protective Services. I’d drape my arm across the window opening and put my chin on it. Then I’d close my eyes as a breeze passed through the car. My feet would hang down, not quite reaching the rubber mat on the floor.

After about 20,000 years, Mom would come back, pushing a cartful of bags. I’d smile because suddenly everything was okay again. Granted, I was glad she was back, but there was something else that ensured my return to happy-kid normal, despite having to sit for an interminable time in Godzilla, waiting. I could see it as she unloaded bags into the back. She’d bought Ring Dings.

On our dock, the river mud would settle and heat in the sun until by mid-summer it turned into a fine, champagne-colored dust. In the evenings, I’d go for an swim after dinner. Then I’d sit on the dock and admire my toes, which I’d painted with a shimmery gold polish. My feet would be tan against the dust and the reddening sun would turn the polish a deep bronze.

I loved the feel of fresh-cut grass. Of smooth slate. Of soft water.

I loved the sound my feet made as they slapped against the saggy wood porch as I ran in for a quick PB&J before going swimming again. I loved sticking my feet in the air as I leaned back in an inner tube and put my face up to the sun. I loved how dragonflies landed on them and stayed.

There are things that never change in your entire life. All I need to do to bring back that wonderful feeling of childhood summers is to kick off my shoes.

When I get to the local beach, the first thing I do is remove my cheap-o Old Navy flip flops and push my feet into the sand. The top of the sand is warm; underneath it still has dampness from the previous night’s rain. Down by the water, the sand is wet and the waves tickle my toes. I take a beach walk and veer between the water when I want to cool off and the sun-beaten land when I want to warm up. Nature’s climate control.

At my mom’s house by the lake, the grass is thick and soft. The pavement that stretches between Mom’s lawn and the lake is cooled by shade and feels bumpy underfoot. It doesn’t hurt. Much. In the lake, the water is warm like a bath and the dragonflies circle and land just like they did on a river miles away and many years ago.

Like an old song one hears on the radio, the feel of sand or grass on my feet brings me back to long-gone days. And so, I have only one rule when it comes to summer. Even if the shoe fits, don’t wear it.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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