Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Barefoot Man

There's a guy in Mount Nabor who never wears shoes, even in the fall and winter. If its really frigid out, he'll wear sandals, and maybe socks if there's snow on the ground.
I first noticed him after we moved here and Lulu and I were grocery shopping. She was only two and exclaimed, "Mommy, that man isn't wearing shoes!'' I didn't believe her since it was late October, but I looked up and saw the barefoot man in the frozen food aisle.
It turned out he lives down the street from us. I don't know his name or anything about him, really, other than the fact that he doesn't wear shoes and he has a daughter and son who don't go to Mount Nabor School. I guess they're home schooled, maybe because of the school's footwear policy (which sucks: kids can't wear sandals without socks!)
The Barefoot Man's children used to sometimes wear regular shoes, but Regis saw them last week--on a cold day--and both the dad and son, who's in his early teens, weren't wearing shoes. The daughter was wearing sneakers. (Was she rebelling against the dad? )
I consider myself an open-minded person. I like nudists--though I don't know any personally, I like the idea of nudists--and I try to raise my kids to feel comfortable with their bodies, but the barefoot man really irks me.
Why this stubborn resistance to shoes? Did he have some kind of skin condition or something?
I Googled "barefoot'' and found The Society for Barefoot Living. This explained everything:
"We are a group of people who love going barefoot as a lifestyle choice. We enjoy walking barefoot as nature intended, taking delight in feeling the many textures the world has to offer, like having tough, calloused soles, and even think it's cool to get them dirty... Shoes are unnecessary ballast!''
In their "mission statement,'' they touted the "support group'' they formed to help one another in a "shod world.''
Their goal was promoting "barefoot acceptance...regaining the freedom our parents and grandparents had to go barefoot anywhere.''
The Barefoot people presented themselves as a persecuted minority, but they were oddly childlike in their defiance. And why this false nostalgia for the days when supposedly everyone went barefoot? People didn't wear shoes in November at the turn of the century?
There was also an element of fetishism among the Barefooters, as evidenced in a posting from "dizmizlizzy,'' who listed her "interests'' as "anklets, baby feet, bare feet, big feet, clean feet, dirty feet, girl feet, guy feet, happy feet, heels, toe jam...'' The list went on.
I admit that as a child, I loved going barefoot in the summer and was proud of the fact that by September, my feet were so tough I could walk across gravel driveways and it didn't hurt.
And yes, when I was really young, footsie pajamas made my feet feel imprisoned. I wouldn't wear them unless my mom cut off the footsies.
Is this why I hate the Barefoot man? Because my own feet are longing to be free?
No. Because in the fall and winter, I like wearing shoes, dammit. And when I grew up, I started wearing flip-flops in the summer--and it wasn't so bad!
Why can't the Barefoot Man just put on some snow boots and cut it out?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Bad Snow Day

Here's some dialogue from Lulu and Zeb's play session after they'd been trapped inside the house on a snow day. By dinnertime, they'd dragged out every toy they owned and left it on the floor. Shortly after the below incident, I yelled at them to clean up for about ten minutes until they cried. Then I apologized and we hugged it out. But they only cleaned up half.

ZEB: You want me to show you my practice? (They were playing circus).
LULU) No. Do you want to see MY practice? You have to sit down.
ZEB: No. YOU sit down.
LULU) I want to show you MY practice. Can you do this? (Does demi-cartwheel)
ZEB: No. I can do kick off shoes (kicks off Lulu's pink snow boots)
LULU) Can you do THIS? (does another "cartwheel")
ZEB) No. I can only do kick-off shoes.
LULU) Do you want to see me do gymnastics?
ZEB) (Loses interest and picks up firefighter intercom) Announces: That boy says he wants to marry you.
LULU) (Politely warning Zeb before third cartwheel) Stand back or I'm going to kick you in the face.
ZEB) (Interpreting this as a threat). No I'M going to kick YOU in the face!
One minute later...
ZEB)(in tears, but not seriously injured) Lulu kicked me the face! I'm gonna call the policeman. He says he's going to put you in jail!
LULU: Hey, those are MY boots.
ZEB: I'm borrowing them
LULU: No, Zeb. You know those are mine in real life? Right?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Zeb thinks its clever to hide things by putting them down his pants.
He does this with vending machine bouncy balls (see previous entry) and he did it with one of the hickory nuts that Lulu has been collecting at the school playground.
After school, she and her friends scour the ground for these nuts and stuff them in their backpacks. She and Zeb like to dump them on the carpet, transfer them to a large baking bowl, then dump them on the floor again and forget about them. The strays roll under the couch and collect cat hair.
Lulu set aside four special hickory nuts that were supposed to be a family. But one day Zeb stole the baby and slipped it down his pants.
Lulu was livid. Regis had to hold her back while I pulled Zeb's pants down and searched. It wasn't in his underwear or socks or on the floor. Had it gotten trapped between his bum cheeks?
Before I had chance to look, it rolled out of the elastic cuff of his sweat pants and Lulu pounced on it, hollering self-righteously. (She's the one who usually gets in trouble for snatching Zeb's toys--maybe that's why he now puts them down his pants--so she wanted to milk her victim status).
Last week, Zeb had been playing in the living room all morning when I brought him upstairs to get dressed. When I took off his pants, I found a pink plastic gel ball with spikes, the kind people use as a dog toy.
"Oh,'' said Zeb nonchalantly. "There it is.''

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Not The Fun Parent

As I drove Zeb home from daycare, he rehashed his whirlwind time with Regis the day before.
While I was in bed with a stomach bug, Regis stayed home from work and took Zeb to the town dump. They drank hot chocolate at Starbucks.They lunched at the pizza place, where Regis bought Zeb a small rubber ball from the vending machine.
"If you took me to Nabor Pizza, you wouldn't buy me the ball, would you?'' Zeb asked.
"No,'' I answered. "Probably not. ''
I fumbled for a way to bolster my image.
"When you're home with me, we do a lot of grocery shopping, or we go to doctor appointments, or buy clothes, and if you're good sometimes I let you get some Skittles from the machine.''
This wasn't helping.
"When you're with me, we go to Friendlys!'' I said brightly. (And we usually do, at least once a week. He likes me to draw a picture of him on the place mat and when we're alone in the bathroom, he begs me to stop singing along with the oldies piped through the speakers, like "Tell Me Something Good,'' by Rufus, but secretly, I know he digs it).
"When you're with me, you have play dates sometimes,'' I offered.
Daddy doesn't do that, I wanted to add, but stopped myself.
I wanted to say that I was the every day chopped-liver parent and that while this was dull and annoying, even for me, I was the better and more necessary of the two.
I couldn't afford to be indulgent because I had sacrificed my career ambitions to stay home with him and Lulu two days a week--and, dammit, on those two days, shit had to get done!! Chicken nuggets had to be purchased. Overdue insurance bills had to be paid. Play dates had to be held at our house so he and Lulu had well-rounded social lives and so the full time stay-at-home moms would owe me if I ever had to call them at the last minute and beg them to pick him up from daycare.
But I didn't say any of that because it wasn't fair to Regis. Even though he isn't with them as much, he never fails to make time for them: baking brownies in Lulu's Easy Bake oven; playing board games that make my eyes glaze over and cheerfully taking them on weekend errands so that I canvacuum the living room in peace or read the paper for 15 minutes.
And actually, as Zeb pointed out himself, after a day with Zeb and Lulu, even Regis's good humor wore thin. He removed them from Foodtown when they misbehaved. They fought over the mini-shopping carts, and when they continued to shriek, as a disapproving neighbor looked on, Regis was as embarrassed as I would be, and as drained when he came home to cook dinner.
I resisted the urge to gloat and told Zeb: "You don't see daddy as much so time with him is kind of special. He buys you things that I might not and takes you place that I wouldn't, and that's nice. But you and I have things that we do together that are important, and we have fun sometimes, too.''
"Yeah,'' Zeb said absently and gazed out the window at the Christmas lights.
I was boring him.
But I was being a grown-up. And I was proud of myself.