My apology to my feet yesterday reminded me of something that happened when I was younger. Since stepping out of the NT box, I’ve been reflecting on childhood memories a lot, and placing them into a better context. Sometimes, this has been painful, but I think it’s all part of the process.
This morning, I woke up on a mission. I wanted to un-box this memory – I had to un-box this memory. Unlike the last time I un-boxed a memory and left it just sitting there, this time, I wanted to change the way I felt about it.
I was about five or six years old. My father had dropped me off at my future step-mother’s house because he had something to do that day. Her mother was there. Her mother was a loud, intimidating, stern woman – the polar opposite of my own grandmother who was a kind, soft-spoken, gentle lady.
At one point in the day, my future step-mother remarked about me, “She walks a bit funny, doesn’t she?” Her mother agreed, and suggested that I might be flat-footed. They decided to test this theory. They did this by using a baking tray covered in flour. I was beckoned, “Come here, and step onto this.” I did. It was lovely. My toes wiggled in delight.
“What are you doing? Don’t do that! You’re messing it up.”
“Now we have to fix it. Step off.”
I did. They shook the tray to rearrange the flour.
“Oh – look what you did: You got flour all over the floor”
(Older me wants to yell ‘What did you expect would happen?’)
“Step back on – and don’t wiggle your toes or you’ll mess it up again”
I did. I concentrated hard not to wiggle my toes.
“Now – step off”
I did, but this time, I carefully brushed the flour off my feet before I stepped onto the floor.
The two loud woman peered down at the tray of flour with two small footprints in it. The older of the two said “She’s not flat-footed. She must have knock-knees. You better tell her father to take her to the doctor so that they can fix her.”
Younger me heard that I needed fixing, so younger me realised that I was broken. I don’t share this memory for pity. I share it because it’s important for adults to realise that the words that they say tell children things. If my step-mother’s mother had left out the part about fixing me, maybe I wouldn’t have felt broken.
But, the un-boxing of this memory doesn’t stop there because older me has something that younger me did not. Older me has my own flour and baking tray, so I recreated the experience – not to see whether I am flat-footed, but to feel the wiggle of my toes in the silky, smooth, cool flour.
I sat for a while running it between my toes, allowing my toes and feet to experience the sensory delight, and I wish that I could have told younger me “You are not broken. You are different and everything is going to be alright.”