While most parents have to deal with the mess that necessarily accompanies snow play- hats, boots, mittens, etc.- my four year old daughter has found a way to create the same sort of backdoor chaos in warm weather too. The sun rose high and hot on Wednesday afternoon and when the girls headed outdoors Elisabeth strapped on her patent hot pink church shoes...the obvious choice for backyard play. But within minutes she was back inside with the shoe basket dumped out on the kitchen floor. My feet are SO SWEATY, she announced. And so she moved on to flip flops.
One would think that flip flops could get the job done. Unfortunately they flop a little too much when you're four, and your feet are chubby, and you spend a great deal of your outside time chasing after your older sisters hollering at them to give it back, give you a turn, or to let you play too. So, back into the house came Elisabeth, red faced and droopy tailed, ready to dig through the shoe basket once again. I spent five minutes lacing up her pink Hello Kitty sneakers until she decided that they were also a little too sweaty. But having gone through three pairs of shoes in fifteen minutes we were rapidly approaching the bottom of the barrel. I don't know what to tell you honey, I said. Either put your flip flops back on, or just go barefoot. We've tried most of your other shoes... which were piled next to the sliding glass door like some sort of trail cairn.
We haven't tried all my shoes, she insisted. What about my sparkly pink boots? I shrugged and went back to peeling potatoes. Part of being a seasoned mother of little girls is knowing when to let them make their own crack brain decisions in terms of apparel. I was not about to point out that if her fat little feet were sweaty in her hot pink church shoes, then her pink sparkly fur-lined boots might not be a winner. Shows you how much I know! Into the boots she stepped and out the back door she ran, never to return again until I called them into dinner.
But despite the footwear crisis that dependably accompanies these swift, Colorado weather changes, the warm sun turned this week into a neighborhood holiday. We went to the park. We ate freezer-burned Otter-Pops left over from last summer. We drove with the windows down, even stopping at the end of our street to let the girls tumble out of the car and run the rest of the way home, which is one of our favorite warm weather traditions.
Yet with all these happy, springtime freeze frames, there remains one stand alone image that allowed me to fall asleep smiling last night. I was driving along through the neighborhood when I saw my friend's ten year old daughter walking along the sidewalk up ahead. I use the verb "walking" loosely, but it was really more of a stroll or saunter. She was barefoot, wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, and you can't blame her for strolling/sauntering along at a snail's pace because she was wholly absorbed in eating an ice cream cone. She hardly looked up as we drove past, so content was she with her cone, the warm sun in her blonde hair, the gentle scrape of pavement on the tough little girl soles of her feet. It was the perfect rendition of childhood innocence. It was the perfect reminder that we grown ups sometimes need a little help to get back to that untroubled, live in the moment kind of happiness that comes so easily to children.
Last weekend we were shoveling snow. By the end of next week it could be more of the same. But today the sun is shining, the whole neighborhood is outside, and I'm ready to go barefoot.