He insists this never happened, but I was one of two witnesses.
Written and illustrated by Vivian Hansen de los Ríos
Like a true southern belle, I always ran around barefoot as a kid. It was a wildly liberating sensation, coming home from school and throwing my shoes inside the door, only to dash back outside again.
Only a few scenarios could ruin this experience. Rotted figs, for one. I hated figs, though it was probably greatly influenced by the smell of the hot, ground-splattered ones in summer that even the birds wouldn’t touch, or when an ill-placed stride would result in the grayish purple mush to squelch up between my little toes. In fact, the only redeeming quality of the fig tree was that its thin, springy branches were just strong enough to allow me to climb onto the roof of the house. (No, I wasn't allowed to do that. Sorry, Papa.) The only situation worse than a steaming, sticky fig oozing its ant-covered guts on your feet might possibly be stepping into something that the dog or chickens left behind, but at least those tended to be out of range of a typical game of tag.
Acorns, though. Jeez, acorns. They weren't gross, but they sure hurt. We had these small, perfectly round ones with a very sharp point on the crown which only fell in the part of the yard where the soil was too sandy to grow grass. Think about stepping on a stray Lego, only multiply it by at least five (they fell in droves and hid quite sneakily under leaves. At least Legos aren’t camouflaged).
Despite these seemingly considerable drawbacks, I clearly felt that the reward outweighed the consequences. When those summer thunderstorms swooped down and left behind clean, warm grass that squeaked under happy feet, all other transgressions were forgotten. Besides, as much as the acorns drove me crazy, I knew there was nothing to be done about it besides avoid running in that area (or, God forbid, put on shoes like a normal, civilized child). That is, I thought there was nothing to be done about it.
One early morning I was drawn by a strange sound into the sunroom, whereupon I stared from the windows, utterly perplexed. My dad was standing in the yard (which was normal) wielding a vacuum cleaner (which was not) in his bathrobe (which was worse). It took me a solid minute to comprehend what was going on. Standing under those acorn-infested oak trees, he was waving the end of the vacuum tube around on the ground, the clack of a thousand acorns against plastic overriding the hum of the machine.
I blinked. Suddenly I realized my mother was on the other side of the room, gazing at the sight with the same horrified bewilderment. We caught each other's eyes. Then we barked with laughter so loudly, doubling over as we shouted “what the?” that my dad turned around and saw us. In his defense, he did look vaguely embarrassed.
And he put pants on.
And got right back to vacuuming. Apparently the acorns bothered his feet even more than mine.