Driving home yesterday, we saw a woman crossing the street, barefoot and limping. Was she hurt? More likely, we suspected, she was reacting to the asphalt under her feet. With the outdoor temperature hitting 100°, the street probably felt like a hot griddle.
“When I was a kid, that blacktop wouldn’t have bothered me at all,” I bragged to my husband. Maybe in May, but not by July 4th.
None of us kids wore shoes in summer. We went barefoot from the day school let out, and the acclimation process every year was almost a ritual. At first our soles were so tender that walking on gravel was like a thousand knifepoints. Running to the Payless grocery store for milk required strategy; we walked on grass as far as we could, and once grass was no longer available, concrete was by far preferable to asphalt. When we had to cross the street, we hobbled and hopped across the bubbling tar.
(Literally, on the tar thing. Either they make streets differently today, or the sun doesn’t beat down as hotly, because I never see tar bubbling anymore. But, as I recall, one of our favorite pastimes on a hot summer day was puncturing tar bubbles.)
By midsummer our feet had toughened to shoe leather. We would race down our alley with nary a twinge. The glorious day we could finally walk across hot pavement without wincing truly marked our independence from school and grownups and rules.
Then came the end of August and a shopping trip for back-to-school shoes.