I’ve been planning to be a grandmother since my own children were babies. I didn’t sell their outgrown baby things at garage sales. I squirreled everything away “for our grandchildren, someday.” During multiple military PCS moves, our poor moving crews lugged boxes of blankets, books, bonnets and booties from house to house, only to be stored in the attic.

I just can’t help myself — I envision bouncing a grand baby on my lap, blowing raspberries on his or her perfect little feet. Adorable!

Admittedly, I have a starry-eyed vision of my perfect future grandchildren, but I wasn’t always enamored with my own children’s lower extremities. Our three kids’ formerly kissable baby tootsies eventually became purely functional body parts, requiring good personal hygiene to ward off potent foot odor, locker room fungus, planter’s warts, and a most foul substance known as “toe jam.”

That repulsive combination of sock fuzz, sweat, and dead skin cells brings to mind one summer, when our family packed into our mid-sized SUV for a twelve-hour car trip from Florida to Maryland.

“What’s that smell?” I asked about a half hour into the trip. My keen olfactory nerves were picking up a repugnant aroma that might only be recreated by locking a bowl of beet pickled eggs in the back seat of a 1974 Galaxie 500 over a long hot weekend in August.

The smell grew in strength, and soon our daughters, Anna and Lilly, were pinching their noses shut. We pulled over to locate the source of the odor. We searched for a carton of curdled milk in the trunk. We looked for a rancid tuna sub under the seats. We opened the glove box half expecting to find a dirty diaper. We looked to see if a stowaway squirrel was decomposing under the hood.

Finally, our noses guided us to the third row of seats, where our then teenage son, Hayden, sat obliviously listening to his iPod, his huge flip-flopped feet tapping to the beat of the music.

Hovering my nostrils carefully over his hairy toe knuckles, I took a big sniff.

“Found it!” I yelled, and stumbled faintly back to the trunk to find a fresh pair of socks and some emergency talcum powder so we could survive the rest of the trip.

Now that our kids are all in their twenties, we have become experts at “sniff and tell” during family holidays and movie nights. The culprit of phantom foot odor knows full well what to do — skedaddle off to freshen up lest you ruin the family fun.

What I’m too afraid to tell our children is that foot odor and toe jam are child’s play. The real trouble happens about two decades after raging teenage hormones quiet down. Middle-aged feet are a veritable Three Ringed Circus, featuring cracked calloused heels, curled thickened nails, burgeoning bunions and their dwarfed sidekicks, “bunionettes.” Add a painful corn or two, and you’ve got a real freak show.

How does one go from playing “This Little Piggy” with smooth perfect baby toes, to middle age, when the Five Piggies are old, knobbed and hardened? After 40 or 50 years of going to Market, big toe Piggy decided to take a detour and is pointing in the wrong direction. the Piggies Who Stayed Home and Ate Roast Beef faired relatively well in their snug sedentary routine, but the Piggy Who Had None collapsed from severe starvation. the Little Piggy on the end isn’t crying “Wee! Wee! Wee!” anymore. Years of being last in line left him curled in a fetal position, hiding under the adjacent toes.

We middle-aged folks make a vane attempt to stave off the aging of our feet, investing hundreds of dollars annually in pedicures, polish and exfoliating devices such as “The Pedi Egg,” (which, by the way, doubles as a nifty parmesan cheese grater.)

Unfortunately, nature dictates that our feet get kinda ugly no matter what we do. So while I dream of the perfect padded soles of my future grand babies, I will keep my tootsies clean and trimmed without getting too carried away.

After all, there’s no sense in putting lipstick on your Piggies.


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