Momma’s feet were brown and bumpy. Their nails were polished pink. She had long toes that could pick up pencils from the floor. I remember her best walking along the beach, her flip-flops flapping against her heels as we strolled the divide between sand and sea, searching for seashells and shark’s teeth.
Maybe it’s unsentimental to remember Momma for her feet. The poets speak of the gentle caress of a smooth hand or the winsome beauty of a soft cheek. Momma had those. I remember her feet because they carried her, carried her to my bedside when I was sick, carried her to the kitchen to bake cookies, carried her across the sand.
When she was young, her feet carried her away.
After high school she moved away from home. She wanted to see a little more of the world. A northern college recruited. She packed her suitcase. She boarded an airplane and she was gone.
Momma took her shoes, her winter shoes: closed-toed loafers she wore with thick, striped socks. Florida shoes. The temperature fell. Her toes froze. She had to buy new winter clothes. One-by-one the leaves fell away, revealing naked branches. She missed the joyful palms sassy-shimmying in their green hula skirts. She missed the sun.
A tropical plant in a northern greenhouse, her true desire was for her native soil. Her feet carried her home.
“Why did you come back home, Momma?”
“I guess I had sand in my shoes.”
Sand in my shoes. We say that when we long for our hot, humid home. Where summer raindrops the size of dinner plates fall on people who’ve given up on umbrellas. Where winter’s playful breezes compel us to purchase new sweaters to wear for a week. Where storekeepers remind us that shoes are required. Home.
When she was young, Momma left Jesus too. She wanted to see a little more of the world. Another life beckoned. She turned her back. She moved away and she was gone.
She dressed her feet in the shoes of self, with the thick, striped socks of the Me Generation. The world grew cold. Her soul froze. In spite of all her worldly clothes. One-by-one her illusions fell away, revealing the world’s nakedness. She missed the joy of the Spirit dancing within. She missed the Son.
Repentant, she turned her feet toward the Master.
Momma followed His footsteps along the roads of Judea and Galilee. When Jesus’ flip-flops flapped against his heels, he kicked up sand onto her feet.
Momma carried her Bible and read it aloud. She studied. She memorized. She learned all of Jesus’ parables by heart; she told them to me as we strolled together on the beach.
She followed the storyteller, followed his sandy feet around the Sea of Galilee as he told of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Momma knew how lost that son felt.
A prodigal daughter transplanted into the world, her true desire was for her native soil.
I guess she had sand in her shoes.
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