[marginalia] 20 Little Essays Project in Action : : Felicia Schneiderhan

I met this sweet exercise in a summer workshop Rachel Yoder taught at the Midwest Writing Center. It reminded me of an exercise I did in my MFA program, using Milan Kundera’s structure from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  I appreciated the freedom of leaping from one topic to the next, of not having to worry about how it all tied together or made sense. These leaps in logic opened up new possibilities that my orderly mind would never make.

Although it wasn’t timed, I felt the pressure of hitting all the prompts in the time we were given in the workshop, so I couldn’t dwell or think too much—I just had to move. As a result, the first draft felt like a thrilling trail run: first I was in the forest, then I was on a ledge overlooking Lake Superior, then I was on a rocky climb, and each part was unique to itself, yet all part of the same trail. I gained momentum as I began to see how each piece was connected on a visceral level, sprinting with glee.

***

My two year-old son’s feet are buttery examples of God’s perfect plan.

I smell them every chance I get, putting my nose between his toes, along the arch, in the crevices, wherever I can get the strongest scent.

My four year-old daughter eats her foot skin.

When I was a child, I would methodically peel long strips of skin off the bottoms of my feet in the summer times. Later I read the Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, where her main character engages in this behavior secretly.

Other people say that baby’s feet and toddler’s feet are delectable; random family members kiss my son’s feet and mimic eating them. My husband calls his youngest son’s toes chicken tenders. And while there is something orally compelling about his feet, I do not wish to digest them, nor do I wish to wrap my mouth around other children’s feet.

According to the Institute for Preventative Foothealth, children’s feet are not just miniature versions of adult feet. They are shaped differently from those of adults, and they change as they grow. In the first year of life, the feet are soft and supple, with ample fat pads on the soles. Bones have not fully ossified (assumed their final shape and hardness), and are very flexible. When a child begins to walk, the arch starts to develop and the muscles of the feet get stronger as the feet grow in both length and width. Ossification of the bones in the feet, which takes place over many years, generally is complete by the age of 18 to 20.

Back then, I didn’t realize my son’s feet would only last a little while in this brief state of perfection, that soon they would grow into the monster feet of a four-year old, followed by the splayed feet of a six-year old, but that I would still try to smell them when I could, when he was sleeping, at night in his grown-up bed.

My Tibetan Buddhist friends would not find this odd at all, and only offer me another beer while we watched the huge television in their apartment living room under a flower-strewn photo of the Dalai Lama.

If we accept Tibetan refugees into our country, they might reincarnate into all the lucrative jobs.

We are only born once, we only die once, we are only judged once.

In 2033, my mortgage will be paid off, but not my student loan.

Dr. Ian Stevenson, former Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology, dedicated the majority of his career to finding evidence of reincarnation, until his death in 2007. He claims to have found more than 3,000 examples of reincarnation, which he has shared with the scientific community.

Donald Trump lived in abject poverty in his last lifetime, the lowest caste in India. Or else he’s bound for that body in the next go-around.

My son’s feet stick through the bars of his crib, naked in the winter night.

The Milky Way is shattered glass blown across the sky by the goodbye kiss of God.

Felicia Schneiderhan writes from her home on the northern shore of Lake Superior, where she lives with her husband Mark and their three tsunamis. She’s the author of the memoir Newlyweds Afloat: Married Bliss and Mechanical Breakdowns While Living on a Trawler. Her short stories and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Literary Mama, Slow Trains, and Sport Literate, and magazines like Real Simple and Lake Superior Magazine. You can read more of her work at www.feliciaschneiderhan.com.

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