“Four Passing Footsteps”

A Memoir by Jackie Friedman

Blanket Sleeper Feet

I hear them running down the hall as if it were yesterday. The brushing sound of little feet against the ceramic floor, running to see what Santa left, running to find the Easter Bunny treats. Early in the morning, eyes groggy with sleep, we would drag ourselves out of bed to be part of the joy.

I miss the sound of blanket sleeper feet. Although each day seemed so long, each year went by so fast. Grown men in socks and old T-shirts walk those halls now. They don’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. They believe in the Internet and its mystery, in the unknown of cyberspace.

As luck would have it, my daughter has two boys with blanket sleeper feet, who believe in the magic. When they wake from sleep, in the beds where their uncles once dreamed of sugarplums and Santa, they wear pajamas in colors of spun sugar.

Once more, I hear those blanket sleeper feet brushing the ceramic floor.

 

Little Croc Feet

They run out of the car. I am listening for the crackle of the gravel, peering toward the driveway, waiting impatiently. Then I hear the crunch of the small stones under the tires as the oversized vehicle rolls onto the driveway. There’s a honk, giggles, and two short smiling faces at the screen door. It opens and I hear a thwack as it slams shut. I love the sound the wood door makes, a thwack!

They are here wearing green Crocs on their feet, little frog feet that practically jump up the steps to the front door. They clutch stuffed animals for sleeping, goggles for the pool, and pillows, which are better than mine, to put in their bunk beds. They left their blanket sleepers home. It is summer, time for pools, barbecue, and boogie boards. 

They peer into their room, just a sliver of space with bunk beds up against the wall. L.L. Bean bags dumped on the floor, bathing suits pulled out, it’s pool time. I hear the music of the splashes just as I heard the music of blanket sleeper feet brushing tile floors. Each splash accompanied by laughter, the vocals in the concert that is my summer in East Hampton.

 

Bare Feet

Tiny toes on marshmallow sand race to a spot close to the cool water that laps the shore. “Not so far from the lifeguard,” I urge. “Come this way.” Pails and shovels, boogie boards and lunches tumble onto blankets. Bare feet skim across the sand to cool waters that kiss those tiny toes.

The water is chilly but never mind, the sun is hot and the lapping waves hold promises. Under the waves, over the waves, the surf captures them, for they ride the waves with a joy that is childhood. They ride with brightly colored shorts, with sandy hair and faces stained with snack stand ices. 

My heart rides the waves with them. Although I will never ride on those boogie boards myself, they carry me into the cool lapping waves on theirs.

 

Big Feet

The convertible is turning onto the driveway. No longer is a gray-haired old man behind the wheel. Instead a young man sits, with thick brown hair. His smile is reminiscent of the old man who promised him that car, when he wore the little green Crocs.

He could hardly reach the pedals then, in green Croc feet. Now unlaced sneakers press those pedals to the ground, retracing the roads of childhood summers at the beach. Memories etched into those roads are his future.

On the beach, I see them running ahead of me, but now I can’t keep up. His feet, in black flip-flops, cross toward the surf. His brother, not far behind, is bringing up the rear. They embed themselves in the hot sand, with boogie boards and towels, far from the watchful eyes of the lifeguards. Aviator sunglasses sitting on the bridges of zinc-tipped noses, board shorts, and iPhones attached to dangling earbuds. Where are the pails, the shovels, the lips stained with snack stand treats? Where are the little Croc feet? I still smell kids’ sunscreen, sugary cherry ices in cups, the greasy waft of salty French fries in paper dishes, the small pleasures of childhood summers.

They are young men now, with memories their past, and adventure their future. I hope they will remember me, because I can’t keep up. They are far beyond me now, way beyond the lifeguard stand.

Once again I hear the screen door thwack. I look up from the chaise. I must have drifted off in the cool breeze for a few minutes. They have just come back from the beach, full of sand and laughter. They’re not so big. They still have Crocs on their feet and lips stained from ice pops. They want to roast marshmallows at the fire pit. They want to play basketball in the pool with their uncles. They are not so big yet!

  I have dreamed the future, but luckily we still have more time to make memories of summers in East Hampton.


Jackie Friedman is working on other memoir stories documenting her childhood growing up in the Bronx. She is a part-time resident of East Hampton.