Growing up, you were the closest female family member in age to me. Not just on our side of the family - but on my moms side too. Even my sisters are much further from me in age than you. I didn't realize this until I was recently thinking back on it.
I remember now looking up to you like a big sister figure. I always thought you were pretty cool. Memories are so funny. They change as you grow. Perspective and maturity lend this kind of retrospective omniscience. Some things come into sharper focus while others fade. And the seemingly most random things just stay with you forever. They just slip in and become a part of you for no readily apparent reason.
I remember one summer day we went for a walk around Grandma and Grandpa's house. I don't remember who else was there or if there was some holiday gathering afoot. But I do remember you wearing sandals. It must have been early summer because you were singing praise to the weather for being so nice you finally got to switch back to sandals. Apparently, you hated socks. In fact, you were so delighted you promptly whipped off the sandals and carried them in one finger as we strolled along. At this point I was certain: you were the coolest kid I knew.
You see, up to this very point I was a sock girl. Like, the weird kind. I wore socks at all times. Inside, outside, in bed, all year round. But it gets worse. I would even run around outside in my socks (remember, we lived in the country back then) and would track the outside all over the inside with my dirty socks. I was forever catching hell from my parents over my gross sock behavior. I ignored them and carried on. But now! Seeing the coolest kid I knew - a girl I now know I looked up to a great deal - had just declared socks were to be hated and we were all to run about barefoot, I was ready to go all in. Fuck the socks! I'm gonna be like this girl!
I watched you waltz along that sidewalk with nary a sock or shoe like you were shuffling across freshly vacuumed carpet! Astonishment doesn't cover it. What about the tiny rocks and the weird dirt and the occasional weeds!? How were you not saying Ouch! with every step as I would have done (and did do until I got used to it)?
I was seeing something new in this moment. Seeing something for the first time. At first I thought it was just freedom. But it was more nuanced than that. There was deliverance, presentness, acceptance, self-assuredness. You had no control over the weather. You were admittedly bound to the hated socks almost half your life out of sheer self preservation. But the moment Mother Nature thawed the ice and bloomed the flowers, you were ready. Gone were the socks! And off with the sandals for good measure!
'Don't miss your moment!' Is what I felt. 'I know what I want so I'll go ahead and take it!' Is what I heard. No rocks or dirt will stop me! I'll walk where I want, how I want! In the eyes of a 10 year old seeking a badass, you had just become invincible.
Now, let's be real a sec. You may not have been saying any of that. Hell, you probably don't remember this event at all. "Event" is even a strong word. The whole memory probably spans about 30 seconds and all you did was take off your shoes. One of the more mundane tasks in life. But there was a spark in it. A spark that lit some mysterious fire. It changed the memory for me and it became more than just a 30 second span of time.
I wonder if it shaped me in some way. Surely something beyond my choice in foot coverings. Maybe it plays a part in the shaping of my quasi-hippy, liberal, natural, earth motherness. That willingness to get closer to the earth in a literal foot-to-dirt kinda way. Or, maybe it just cut down my sock laundry production. Who knows?
My sock behavior has continued to evolve over the years but it remains that my favorite time to go barefoot is outside. Where the coolest kid I knew once became invincible.