When we visited my grandparents in Florida every summer, there were some things I really looked forward to (Disneyworld! the beach! gorging myself on every chocolate in their very own chocolate store!) and there were other things I hated about the trip (listening to my grandparents watch the news at 5am, my grandma's dentures sitting on the bathroom counter, the smell of the ice in their freezer). While the dentures were pretty freaky, they didn't hold a candle to the freakiness that was my grandma's feet. Grandma always wore orthopedic sandals, her heels were cracked, her toenails were yellowed and long, and her toes (oh her toes!), were permanently bent and disfigured. They were ugly, ugly feet. I remember lying on the floor of her living room, looking at pictures of strongmen and fat ladies through the stereoscopic viewer they had, and hoping that she and her feet would stay far away from me.
I was all grown up and married before I solved the mystery of Grandma's feet. She'd been a nurse, starting in the 1940s, when nurses wore the white uniforms and pumps, and after spending years standing on those feet, they stopped being pretty and started looking like deformed claws. Even though I admired Grandma for how she got her ugly feet, I still wished she'd cover them up.
Now I'm the one with the ugly, ugly feet. One of my toes is in a permanent state of toenaillessness. My second and third toes are bigger than my big toe. They're callused all along the instep. I inherited Grandma's cracked heels, and I always have a blister or two. One of my achilles' tendons has a huge scabby scar from the wart I had burned off earlier this summer. The pretty little size seven-and-a-halfs I had from age twelve to age thirty have expanded to eight-and-a-halfs in the four years that I've run marathons. I don't even have anything noble, like providing for my family or saving peoples' lives, to make these ugly feet noble. They've carried me and my one-track mind thousands and thousands of miles over the last four years, and every mile shows in the calluses and the blisters and the too-long toes.
If I were a more considerate person, I'd probably cover my feet up, or at least prettify them, but instead I show them off. Maybe Grandma thought her feet were a badge of honor too. I'm sure that in another 30 years, my feet will be even scarier, because if I have my way, they'll continue to carry me thousands of miles, and I'll proudly wear my flipflops and take pleasure in freaking out my grandkids.