What time of the year did your shoes start to disappear? By the last week of June I could only find my shoes on Sunday and that was only if I had to go to church. Once school was out...so was wearing shoes!

My Mom was appalled by my behavior! She had stories of little girls who didn't wear shoes being bit by everything from Black Widow Spiders to Cottonmouth Snakes! We might reach a compromise by her buying me a pair of white sandals that I just possibly might not wear socks with. Maybe...

Is there a bigger thrill than running through a super large, slightly muddy puddle that's been warmed by the sun in your bare feet? Well....maybe riding your bike through that puddle. Barefoot of course.

I would tear out of the house in bare feet if Mom was in the basement with the washing machine and she couldn't see me. I made sure I was out of sight by the time she came up and found those sandals laying on the porch without me in them.

Early physics lessons...black pavement looked like it might be cooler than whitish cement. WRONG!!!

You quickly found out that a patch of green grass in running distance was needed to keep your feet from frying. Even if that patch of grass held a surprise from the dog up the street. (Where's the puddle now that you truly NEEDED it?)

When we spent a few days at the shore at my Aunt Peg's house it was very difficult to go barefoot because she was convinced that young girls should wear white pinafore dresses and sandals with SOCKS!

Shorts were only for boys. Mom was more realistic and would let me go barefoot on the beach and I could wear a swimsuit under that starchy pinafore.

Great feelings #1....Having the salt water kiss your bare feet as you stood on the wet sand.

One summer Mom and Aunt Peg got together and bought me a pair of rubbery "Beach Shoes". Ohhhhh YUCK! How can you find the clams if you are wearing rubber shoes?

It took me two days to lose them. Told my Mom that the waves washed them right off my feet. I would look around at the beach to see how many other kids my age had the "Beach Shoes". Never did see them on a boy over the age of 3. Girls who had them on were convinced that without them they would be attacked by crabs, sharks and oysters, These were the girls who never got their hair wet or went in deeper than mid-calf.

Great feelings #2...running in the empty lot as a short cut to Stamen's to get an ice pop.

If it was dry you could see the dusty trail you left behind you. Not dry? Even better! Muddy footprints.

By the middle of July you had grown your own shoes. By then you had calluses that were thicker than army boots. You could walk on burning coals or shards of glass and never know it. You were invincible!

When I grew older I would have a pair of summer sandals for YEARS! Only wore them if I absolutely HAD to.

When I stayed at my Aunt Kay's down the shore things were a lot more relaxed. She had two boys and they were 3 and 4 yrs older than me. I think they had one pair of sneakers between them.

Her summer place was in a row of attached two room 'bungalows' that had exactly two rooms. You would walk into the kitchen which had a two burner stove and sink and a REAL ICE BOX! The ice man would deliver a block of ice according to what size you wanted in the top of the wooden cabinet. While he was delivering the ice you could go to the back of the ice cart and see how big a chunk you could grab. There was a horse involved so you knew not to grab the ice chunks off the ground.

The other room had as many beds as you could jam into it. At least 3 double beds and 2 army cots. The place was known as the "Irish Grove". It was full of people named Meehan, Cooney, O'Reilly, Leonard, McGinty and etc.

All the 'bungalows' fronted on "The Alley". The living rooms were outside under the roofed areas just outside the door. Aunt Kay did have one upholstered chair with a lamp next to it in the kitchen. Most activites took place in "The Alley". After it was dark and most of the kids had been fed, the adults would gather around the tables in "The Alley and play cards.

I learned how to play poker and swear.

My cousins Leo and Terry taught me both but I got the best swear words from Marybeth's dad, Timmy Cooney. Give Mr Cooney three beers and he could swear in Gaelic! (I think it was Gaelic..)

Weeks could go by and never did my feet see a shoe. I could tap dance barefoot and you could hear it.

BUT....by the third week of August Mom started making "Back To School" noises.

I knew by the day after Labor Day I'd be back to wearing shoes. I could no longer be the summer barefoot barbarian that I loved being. Even if I had been offered Cinderella's glass slippers I would have not been enthusiastic about putting them on. I had to cram my insensitive feet into black and white saddle shoes.

It took until Thanksgiving to lose the callouses.

By Swampetta (SWAMPETTA@aol.com)






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