Stupid Shoe Season

Summer took its sweet time in coming to Mammoth this year. But when it finally blew in, soft and warm and fresh, I threw off my shoes and chose a pair of sandals I had despaired of ever being able to wear this summer.

I felt like dancing. The sandals were so light, it was like shrugging off, with great delight, the cumbersome vestiges of winter, and welcoming in golden sunshine.

When my husband saw me with sandals on my feet, he stopped in the middle of his words. “Uh, oh,” he said, “stupid shoe season.”

His response is understandable. He grew up in New York City, where places to stub naked toes lurked on every street corner, down every set of subway stairs, and where parks provided untold numbers of opportunities to step in dog poop. His belief in “sensible shoes” comes from his personal experience. Not the sensible brown oxfords matrons used to wear as they walked up and down Second Avenue pushing little shopping carts, but sensible in the sense of completely wrapping the feet in protection—in things like sneakers, boots, preferably ski boots.

In California, people are born with sandals on their feet. They can maneuver in them, run, hop, throw Frisbees, dance and hike in sandals. They wear them year round, hot weather or snowy.

I grew up without sandals. When summer came to my childhood neighborhood and the grass—coddled by my father into a thick green carpet shining with morning dew—I begged my mother to let me “wear bare feet.” I’d rather go barefooted than anything.

We had rites of passage every summer when we were between four and 10 years old: Walking across our street without running, without getting up on tiptoes; and walking the entire length of the graveled driveway; then running on the burning-up, melting-tar streets of summer without feeling the burn. All these challenges became moot as soon as the soles of our feet toughened. And it always felt like prison in the fall when we had to put our shoes back on.

My first pair of sandals came when I was in college, when peer pressure dictated that we wear blue jean skirts and Bernardos. Good thing the Italian sandals came in lots of colors, because they were awkward and uncomfortable—kind of flimsy and floppy, not good to run in, and they always made the space between my toes itch like crazy.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago on a hike up McGee Creek with a friend who sallied forth up the trail in light, airy Tevas while I trudged in closed-in, hot hiking boots, that I finally realized how far sandals have come. I made a beeline for Footloose Sports, found what I was looking for, and now, needless to say, my feet are much happier, my toes protected and my hikes much cooler.

So, welcome to stupid shoe season, another word for summer—wonderful, warm, sparkly summer. I, for one, am happy it’s here, no matter what you call it, no matter what you wear on your feet.