I’ve never liked feet; ugly, smelly, rough and calloused things that are better left stuffed in shoes than shown to the world. But then my daughter was born, and I bore witness to the tiniest, most precious arches and ten toes I’d ever seen.
There’s something about those little toes, that look like perfect round lentils when viewed from the underside. There’s something about how smooth and pink the bottoms are, how they smell like a combination of every sweet scent and feel like a mixture of flower petals and velvet. For some reason, I don’t mind putting them on my face, grabbing and shaking them in the air or even biting on them, on occasion.
I know they won’t always be so pristine. She’ll start walking soon and the bottoms will become caked with dirt as they callous and roughen up in preparation for what’s to come. But I like to think about all the places those tiny appendages will eventually call home.
Maybe they’ll be inserted into soccer cleats and run for miles in fresh cut grass, passing to teammates that are also close friends. They might be laced with pointe shoes or remain barefoot as they make their way swiftly across a stage; perhaps they’ll leave the earth for a few moments in a pirouette or a daring leap into a partner’s arms.
Sometimes they’ll walk along the beach in sandals, which they’ll kick to the side so the toes can relish opening and closing around the warm sand. One morning, they might be laced tight into trainers, prepared to make their way to the starting line of their first marathon. And at some point, they’ll work their way into some special footwear, a perfect match to the carefully selected outfit worn on a very first date.
I wonder what ground those feet will cover in the tens of thousands of miles they’ll walk in their lifetime. I can imagine them gliding briskly through the hallowed halls of some academic institution or strolling leisurely through a mountain park at dusk. They could travel to distant countries and stand on the same sites graced by Cicero, Michelangelo or Aristotle. At some point, they might trek to some ancient place like Machu Picchu so that they can delight in traversing the terrain of civilizations past.
I hope that during their journey, they don’t always stay on the well-trodden path. I hope that they come to a fork in the road and choose to go into the weeds and thorns and risk getting banged and bruised and scuffed; because being both brave and willing to go where others aren’t brings rewards of strength, character, resilience and opportunity. I hope I have the strength to guide them toward those paths instead of away from them.
Of course someday, when she’s older, my daughter will read this and say “Dad, you’re crazy. My feet, really?” And I’ll smile and look down at her shoes and remember when they were ten sizes smaller. Years later, when she has her own son or daughter, she’ll stare at her baby’s newly-formed little lentil toes in awe and wonder and amazement. And when her eyes lose focus and her mind begins to wander, she might start thinking about all the fantastic places those little lentils will go.