I am a smart person. I grew up as a “nerd,” taking honors classes and participating in Brain Bowl where me and my nerd friends showed off our trivia skills in a winner-take-all, cage-match-style competition. Okay. It was really just a couple of tables set up in the library with a lot of questions about Hamlet. Point is, I know many things and have weird skills in many areas.
But I am also a complete idiot.
These two things are not mutually exclusive. There are many very smart people who are rock-stupid when it comes to the “soft skills” of life. The most common ones are social skills. Lots of hardcore geniuses are the same people who can’t speak to members of the opposite sex without barfing on their shoes. Emily Dickinson never even left her house.
Other nerds, like myself, have less obvious holes in their soft skills department. Mine? I’m still basically 12 when it comes to almost everything in the universe.
- Still believe in Santa.
- Thinks sex is generally icky.
- Will eat candy (hell, anything really) off the ground. Once dropped a piece of cake on the sidewalk and just scooped it up.
- Takes dares very seriously, and will do anything someone tells me not to. Just because. This works even when I know someone is doing it, too. My husband is constantly telling me not to the do the dishes. Eff that. DISHES ARE DONE, BEEEYOTCH.
- Does not wear shoes in public. Often.
So, now I tell you the story of how I forgot about physics and humanity for about 5 seconds and almost lost my feet. Don’t worry it was a long time ago.
The time I forgot about physics and humanity for about 5 seconds and almost lost my feet.
My sister purchased my daughters a wiggle car last spring. It was a magical day, I’ll tell you. The wiggle car is an invention that works on sideways-y motion, so that when you wiggle the steering from side to side, it propels you forward without pedals or using your feet like an off-brand Flintstone.
As we have recently moved to a small, quaint, and affluent neighborhood of Hillvale, UT (not a real place), we now have tons of hills to use our wiggle car on. Almost as soon as we got here, Abigail and I realized that the wiggle car’s slippery ball-bearing wheels could get the wiggle car moving pretty fast. And since our house it located at the top of one of these hills, all we have to do is get our feet out of the way and let gravity do her thing. Totally awesome fun.
Every day, I walk my daughters to their new school. It is not far away, and it’s at the end of our hill. It’s a great jaunt, and it takes about 15 minutes. We stop and pick strawberries, apples, and peaches that our wealthy neighbors are growing. We pick string beans and look at the dogs behind the picket fences. It’s a nice way to start the day.
At the end of the school day, Elyse and I do it all again to go pick up Abigail. In the afternoons, I’m less excited to take my time, however. By that point, Elyse is usually grumpy and I’m not in the mood for a side trip.
This week, Elyse started the magical transition into “no more afternoon nap.” Just typing those words puts the chill of death into my very soul. So I spent much of the week coming up with fun things to do.
Needless to say, I turned to the wiggle car as my saving grace. Elyse sits in front, her hands on the wheel. I sit behind, my hand ACTUALLY on the wheel, keeping her nice and safe with my other hand. Arm seatbelt.
We wiggle-car-ed down the drive. Then, instead of going back and dropping the thing off before going to get Abigail, I thought, “It would be fun to just take the car all the way to the bottom.”
It was a great idea. A brilliantly fun idea. A 12-year-old genius would have loved this idea. I’ll tell you why.
About a quarter mile from the school is one, big, last hill. It is about a 65 angle all the way down. If you’re not real “math-y,” it’s what the layperson would call, “oh my gosh, this is a lot steeper than I thought it would be.”
Well, like a good, brilliant 12-year-old, I poised my 16-month-old and myself at the top of the hill. Like a responsible adult, I put a good 50 feet between us and the large family that was also walking down the hill to pick up their kids. On the other side of the road, very fit moms pushing $800 strollers were duly ignoring me. Totes fine. I sat down, looking down the hill with my daughter in my lap, suddenly feeling like I was at the top of a roller coaster, and pushed down.
Ah! The Exhilaration! As William Wordsworth once said:
The party don’t start till I walk in.
Or Ke$ha. Does it even matter at this point?
Because, no, it does not matter. I’m not at a brisk speed moving towards very fast, moving inevitably towards ludicrous speed.
The family in front of me shrieks and scatters, and I just yell in a siren-like blur “OHMYGOSHIMSORRYICANTSTOPYOUGUYS”
We hit a bump, and catch a foot of air, but land it with ease. My daughter is laughing maniacally. I’m just looking at the upcoming road, and realizing that if I don’t stop now, we are all going to become pancakes. So I do the only responsible thing I have done ALL DAY, and I put on the brakes.
And by brakes, I mean my bare feet.
When you brake going around 25 miles per hour in a car, this is not a big deal. Even if you have to stop over 50 yards, this is something you can do while still not spilling your hot chocolate and ALSO texting the morning radio show keyword of “FARTS” so that you can win tickets to the Weezer concert you still can’t afford because you’re perpetually 12 years old.
Not that I would know.
But when it’s just you, and an 18-month-old, and the hot tar beneath your plastic wheels that are starting to shed bits of plastic pieces and ball bearings that you’re pretty sure are important, AND ALSO YOU HAVE NO SHOES ON, it’s a different story.
And so I braked, and then my feet caught on fire. And then we still weren’t stopping, so I braked some more, and the bottoms of my feet began to melt. And my daughter laughed the whole time.
I swerved into the grass at the mini-park at bottom of the hill, which is right next to the school. I dug my feet nice and deep into the grass. My daughter smiled gleefully and shouted, “Again!” Like a good parent, I ignored her, and instead hopped very gently to the drinking fountain, where I stuck my feet in like you’d see in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon.
When my daughter came out of school, I was still there, my littlest dangling precariously from my arm, my foot in the drinking fountain. Like any normal mom. And to top that off, my feet were blistering.
It was then that I remembered I had an ice skating lesson in 45 minutes.
“Mom, you should just not go,” Abigail said after inspecting my feet. “It’s not a good idea.”
“It’s fine,” I lied. “I’ll be okay.”
But since I could no longer walk, “fine” was kind of a long shot.
A friend gave us a ride home because it felt like walking on hot coals every time my feet touched the ground. We packed up the wiggle car, the girls, and my sad, burned feet into her van and I pretended like every second didn’t feel like my feet were being toasted like marshmallows.
In the house, I knew there was a grave choice to be made: skip my lesson or stay home. But here’s the thing, if my feet were going to hurt anyway, I’d rather have them be hurting doing something I love, not sitting in front of a TV. So, I grabbed a bag of frozen corn, winced my way to the car, and made makeshift corn shoes for me to drive in.
When I got the rink, I had corn all over my feet, but they were better. I laced up and went out. And I was fine.
By the time I was done, I didn’t even feel the burning, and the blisters were so far beneath my callouses that they didn’t even bother me that much. And the ice actually made them feel better, even through my boots.
I wish I could give you a moral to this story. I’m not sure there is one, but I’ll try.
Don’t be afraid to take the wiggle car to get where you want to go. But if you’re going to take big, fantastic risks, at least prepare a little to put on the brakes every once in a while. And finally, no matter what pain pursuing your passion brings you, you’ll be surprised how much joy you can still find in the hardest parts of that pursuit.
Oh, yes. And corn makes terrible shoes.