I have pretty feet. It’s just a fact. I’ve had many a paw praise ever since I was old enough to recognize a foot flirt when I heard one. Back in high school, while attending a family wedding, few noticed my white lacy dress Dad brought back from Italy, but my feet and the dainty anklet I wore above my right strappy heel drew plenty of attention. It was a cheap imitation silver thing, but it had lots of little parts that made a distinct jingle as I walked.
That piece of tarnished jewelry began a collection of anklets I have invested in over the years. I love the summer time especially, since I can upgrade my flip-flops to casual wear by throwing on a pretty little anklet. I even have one from Disney that displays a delicate Micky symbol hanging off a twirly silver chain.
And pedicures. A must for this girl who loves colors, especially on her toes.
When I was in college, I was obsessed with orange nail polish. Neon orange to be exact. Which peered through my worn our green canvas runners right at the big toe, on both shoes. Funny how I often sported University of Miami colors while attending a purple and white campus. Then I end up marrying a UM graduate several years later.
Once I entered the work force, I pursued more professional colors, shades of red and pink and purple. But those neon colors always wooed me back. Right before a week long vacation, I’d take the plunge and run with the brightest pink, or orange, or blue on the nail salon rack. Like rainbow seashells onto sandy beaches or floating petals amidst blue waters, my toes loved themselves some R&R.
When it comes to my feet, the thing that stresses me out are… shoes. I am a classic case of Cinderella gone awry. I have broken, mismatched, and lost so many shoes in the strangest of places and at the worst of moments, that my Prince prefers to take me places barefoot. It’s just about come to that.
One time, when arriving at an airport for an early flight back to New York, I exited the shuttle van with only one shoe. With little time to spare, everyone in the vehicle squatted, scanned, and searched over every inch of the van floor in hopes to find my comfy brown sandal. Nothing. In the end, I boarded the flight sporting three inch golden heels I brought for the wedding we attended. A perfect accessory to my jean shorts and t-shirt. Not my best look. And super uncomfortable at six in the morning.
The worst part was that we had to attend a company barbecue that we would all ready be arriving late for. I made the mistake of asking the friend, and I use that term loosely, who came to pick us up from the airport to purchase a cheap pair of simple, black flats from Payless Shoes on route to LaGuardia. Notice the key words in that last statement: simple, black flats.
She arrived with a Payless box that contained a pair of gaudy, beige, wedges. Hello? This was not a time to play, “I bet she’d like these better.” Because I didn’t. I hated them. And they weren’t just ugly. They hurt my feet. Sigh. Swallowed my pride and wore them all afternoon. But then threw them in the donation pile the minute I got home.
For a girl who loves to showcase her toes, the worst news ever arrived when I visited a podiatrist and he diagnosed me with a heel spur. I needed orthotics and those babies aren’t made to slide into flip-flops or open-toed heels. So I had a boo-hoo moment. Not long after I kicked off my pity party, Doc puts a Birkenstock catalog in my hands.
“These would be your exceptions. They make their shoes with built-in orthotics. Great arch support! And a variety of styles.” Are they paying him I wonder?
I skim through the pages and joy seeps back into my deflated spirit, knowing I won’t have to sport runners to church and hubby’s company Christmas party. In fact, Doc says that high heels are great for cases like mine. Since the pressure of the foot is off the heel, my feet should hurt less when I increase the inches. Yippee! Music to my ears.
So I purchase a couple pairs of Birkenstocks right before our annual anniversary trip, the one time a year we leave the girls for a few nights with family or friends. This April, we’re heading to High Falls State Park in Georgia to celebrate thirteen years, and hubby finds a campsite near a river—perfect for kayaking.
And perfect waters for testing our marriage.
The first afternoon we arrive, we carry our kayaks down a short trail to the river right behind our campsite and place them half way into the water. Then we zip up our lifejackets and adjust our oars to maximize the scooping-switch effectiveness. We load the dry bag with a few snacks and water bottles and just as we’re about to take our seats in our single ducky kayaks, I spot a family of 1, 2, no…6! Yes! Six! Small yellow butterflies. Hubby scurries to get his camera out, but by the time he’s able to snap, four have flown away. Miss the girls something terrible at that moment. Sigh. We look at each other silently, seeing a little glimpse of our future but not wanting to voice it.
Camera tucked away with the cell phone and keys in the dry box, we embark on our first kayaking adventure of the week. Since we had a late start and want to make today’s outing a short expedition, we decide to row upstream and savor the push of the river on the way back to our sandy bank. We look around for markers so we’ll recognize the entrance back toward our campsite. Satisfied with our careful preparations, we dip our paddles in and scoop away. The sun is shining and the water is cool. A perfect combination.
For the perfect surprise.
Not even a quarter mile up the river, we see a line of rocks spread across from shore to shore, with a gushing four foot tall waterfall running over the beautiful display of creation. Off to the right are mini falls; rippling brook would describe it accurately.
“I’m going to kayak up the baby waterfall, turn around, and then ride the waterfall down.” I declare my plan with gusto.
“You mean that Class 0.25? Go ahead.” Hubby is not phased by my suggestion, but he’s not joining me. He wades in his kayak and watches from behind.
I row and row and row and row. And then row some more. I am out of breath and I cannot get up this miniture rapid for nothing. Are you kidding me? The rush of water over this wimpy little brook is not so wimpy after all. I cannot conquer it, so I do the next best thing. I row up to the bank, exit my kayak, and pull it up over the falls, wading carefully over slippery rocks, staying close to the tree strewn edge. The water is only inches deep. I know I won’t drown, and after a few minutes, I am at the top of the infant waterfall. Watercrawl might be a better name. I quickly get in and enjoy a squealing five second ride down what hubby refers to as a toddler slide. Yeah, it wasn’t much. But it was fun!
“Again!” I declare and this time hubs joins me. And we do this several times while trying to avert the fishermen lines that are increasing with the heat of the day.
“Excuse me sir,” I ask a guy with his pole in the air. He looks like he has some time. I point to the four foot falls directly ahead. “Have you ever seen any kayakers going down those falls?”
“Sure!” He cocks his head to one side and smiles. “All the time.”
I turn to hubby and he just shakes his head, NO. Not having it. Not doing it.
“But,” I protest. “The guy says people do it all the time!”
“Is he even in a kayak? No. He’s fishing. And you call that reliable information?” Hubby shakes his head and takes a deep breath. “If you want to try it, be my guest. But I’m not doing it. I’ll be happy to watch you.”
I should probably mention a little background info at this point. I am not an expert kayaker. I do love the sport, but I’m used to the calm waters of Bayville creeks and still water lakes. I’ve only kayaked white water rapids once before, and the biggest falls we faced was one Class 3, right at the end of the trip.
Hubby thinks this falls is somewhere between a Class 3 and 4. It doesn’t look that bad to me. I feel like I’ve graduated from this ripple and want to move onto a challenge. And a longer, more fun ride of course.
“Okay.” I think of my plan, just glad he’s not protesting. “I’m heading to the left up along the river bank to get to the top of that falls. It’s gonna be awesome!”
“Sure. Awesome if you live to tell someone.” Hubby follows behind me, dragging his kayak as well.
When we reach the top, where the water tapers off on a plateau like a miniture lake, to the left up the river, the waters are calm and serene. To the right, the waters build to a crescendo as they near the falls that draw them in the direction of the flow.
“Hey, should we row up stream some more first? And then come back and finish with the falls?” I’m getting cold feet. It sounds much louder from up here.
“Naah,” Hubby says. “Like I said before, I’m just here to watch you and then we’ll row back toward our campsite.”
Next thing I know, hubby banks his kayak onto some bare rocks and wades across the river, the water up past his knees, to climb up onto a huge rock that divides the oncoming waterfall.
“What are you doing?” Me with the questions again.
He doesn’t reply until he’s standing atop the rock, feet slightly spread, and hands on his hips. He looks like a tall, darker, cuter version of Superman. “I’m gonna stand right here. And watch you do this. And when you go over the falls. And your kayak tips. And you fall out of the boat. And you need my help. I’ll be right here. And when I see you need my help, I’ll climb off this rock and down into the water and come and rescue you.” He’s not laughing. I am. A common dynamic in our marriage. Not always a good one mind you.
“Okay. Here goes!” I climb into my kayak, my heart pounding as I near the rushing water. I don’t even have to row, the water pushes me from all sides and I am sailing past my hubby with little time to blow him a kiss. I decide its more important to keep my hands on my oar at this point. The waterfall takes my kayak up. Then down. Then over. Water fills the front. My boat flips and I fall out with a not so cush landing on the rocks below. My legs are twisted and the rushing water is not letting up. I have one handle on my oar and the other on my waterlogged kayak. I try to stand. And that’s when I realize I’m missing something. You guessed it. One of my shoes.
I look up and hubby has turned around on the big rock, his hands still on his hips.
“Yup! That was…fun!” I lie.
“Do you need help?” Hubby calls out from above.
“Nope.” I lie again. “I’m good. Just have. To. Figure. Out. How. To …” As I get my footing and try to stand again, the water pushes me right back down and now my kayak floats away from me and I slide down the remainder of the falls on my bottom. Not so fun with all the rocks. And only one shoe.
“I’m coming.” I hear from behind.
“Okay. Great.” I could use the help. Now that I’ve merged back with my kayak, I cannot flip it over to dislodge all the accumulated water. I use my oar to scoop some out, but it’s taking forever. And to top it off, my shoeless foot keeps slipping on the mossy floor below.
“Need some help?” Hubby’s voice beside me now sounds calm. Glad he’s not lecturing me. Yet.
He grabs the kayak from the middle and flips it over to rid the boat of most of its water, then flips it upright again. That’s my strong man!
“Thanks. Uh…” I should tell him now. Take the lecture. Then we’ll move on with our day. “Ummm. I lost my shoe.”
“The ones you just bought?”
“Well, only one of them.” Like that helps?
“Excuse me.” The voice comes from a new camper fishing off the shore. “Did you lose a brown flip-flop? Because I saw one floating down the river. If you hurry…”
I jump back in my kayak and hubby shakes his head.
“Are you gonna do it?” I ask stupidly.
“And break my neck like you almost did. No. I’m going to walk my kayak down and meet you back at camp. Now stop talking and go and catch up to your shoe. Hopefully you’ll find it!”
And with that I went my way and he went his. I row rapidly, scanning the rocks and shoreline, doubting I will recover my beloved Birkenstock. When the waters calm to almost still, I spot a black thing floating in place off to my right. It’s probably some bark, I think to myself, but I’ll check it out anyway. I flip it over with my oar, and it’s my shoe! I found it! I am too thrilled to tell hubby. Hopefully my discovery will decrease the length of the lecture I hear coming in the wind.
Life is good. I’m alive. I have two shoes. And it’s time for dinner.
When I bank my kayak and trudge up the trail to the RV, I wait for hubby to return. Surprisingly, he doesn’t say much as he grills the steaks and I cut up a salad. We finish the night with a roaring fire and toasty marshmallows.
While we watch the hot orange swirls float off into the night sky, I ask hubby, “So when do I get my lecture?”
“Why? Do you feel like there’s something you shouldn’t have done? And you need me to remind you of it?”
“No. I know what I did. And what I shouldn’t have done. I just thought you were mad.”
“I’ve been biting my tongue all evening. I don’t need to tell you what you already know.” He reaches for another marshmallow.
“It was kinda fun.”
“Don’t even—” He stabs the marshmallow with his stick and the fire dances in his eyes.
“Yeah. It was stupid.”
“Thank you. It’s good to hear you tell the truth.”
“Yeah. I’m glad I found my shoe. But I’m even more glad I’m alive to wear it.”
“Yup. Me too,” he mutters with a roasted marshmallow between his cheeks.
I run my hand over my head to discover I did indeed lose something that day. My sunglasses. Darn it!
Maybe I’ll see better without them. Not having them will definitely serve as a reminder.
As I wash up for bed that night, I stare at my pinkalicious toenails. And thank God I didn’t lose my feet in the tumultuous fall over rocks earlier that day. But even more than that, I thank God for a hubby to walk with through this madness we call life.
A hubby who let me choose my course today and didn’t step on my toes when I just had to be me.
A hubby that does not paint my toes, but daily paints my life.
Dive Into Another Waterfall: