When the boys were small, they were always barefoot. On the sidewalk. In the park. At school. In rain. Or shine. Cold. Or hot. In our house, shoes were mostly optional and mostly, they refrained.
The boys actually became known for their bare feet. One day I brought Middle, then four, to his older brother’s school. It was winter in Los Angeles. It was raining. He was barefoot. One of the kindergarten teachers walked by and raised her eyebrows. "Is he ever going to wear shoes?" she queried.
"I promise he will wear shoes by the time he starts school," I said.
Other mothers would look askance when we arrived at nursery school, unshod. Their judgment never rankled me. I felt a detached amusement in the face of their disapproval. I was completely sure that letting my children go barefoot was the right thing to do.
No one ever stepped on a rusty nail or a broken piece of glass. No one ever picked up a horrible infection. They came through their barefoot years unscathed, at least, by the lack of protection on their feet.
Today, Youngest, who has reached puberty a good two years before his brothers, walked out of the house barefoot. And as we got in the car, I wondered if he were reaching back through the years, to stay who he was just a little bit longer, by going barefoot one more time.