Barefoot Day in Kangaroo Class

They were invited
to take off their shoes and socks
which is usually NOT allowed at school
but this was barefoot day
in kangaroo class

On the concrete floor the teachers
had taped down
bubble wrap
(the kind with big bubbles and the kind with small bubbles)
that padding that goes under carpet
and lengths of textured yellow foam–
packing material that could be a topographical map
of another planet

Along one wall
of the classroom
they laid out a long sheet
of brown butcher paper
with gallons of bright paint at one end

Each child who wanted to
(which was not everyone–
some built train tracks or
sculpted play dough or
did wooden puzzles of
farm animals and vehicles)
chose red or yellow or blue paint
and the teachers poured a puddle
onto a square of bubble wrap
and the child stepped in

The teachers had to hold the hand
of each child as they squished their toes
into the paint
because paint on bubble wrap
can be quite slippery
when you’re two or three years old

Walking along the brown paper path
they left small footprints
until they came to the end
where I had filled a big blue basin
with warm water
and they stepped in
and i washed their feet
with my hands
even though they did not know me at all
they leaned on my shoulders
to steady themselves
as I gently lifted one foot
and then the other
to wipe away the paint

Then I held their hands
as they stepped out of the water
onto a towel
where I dried their feet
and wiped off smears of paint
from their ankles that I had missed
(there was still some paint between their toes,
but I had to keep the line moving)

Soon they would return
having left more footprints
now in blended colors
because eventually all the paint
mixed together

and I would wash their feet again
and now they knew me as the lady
who was there to wash and dry
their feet
(still between their toes the paint clung)
and they smiled at me
in wonder,
so delighted by what they had done

At the end, one of the teachers decided
to walk through the paint and
down the brown paper path
and one of the little girls
quickly took her hand
to walk beside her and make sure
she was steady


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