Updated: Aug 11
IMy Zoris for a Life-long Memory
I must confess, I don’t recall the name of the park. It might have been Lomond View or perhaps it was Bannister. I do remember the prickly grass with straw like stalks that covered the oak lined crest and poked through dirt soft enough to be mistaken by my toes as sifted bread flour or silt from the Stockton channel viaduct edge, that greedy grass, I remember, barbed along the leaf edges, hungry with a desire to skip and run with the movement of the adjacent bending river that noisily babbled a song in praise to a God none can see. The long ago rooted grass so eager and determined to sacrifice my hot-pink Woolworth dime store zoris as soon as I was uncontrollably tumbling down the slope of his hillside to that God of lost socks, milk money, and basically any unbridled paired item - he offered them, my zoris, in attempt to equalize and overcome the rivers offering of crystal-clear bubbling spring rhythm and serenade, my zoris – his crimson unclean tithe.
What are the gains of such a sacrifice? Or more specifically, what benefits would result from offering such sacrificial foam lambs? Even as I write these questions, I relish in the memory of the gift – flip-flops to the God in trade for those first few pieces of scattered plastic sections strewn across flossy knob where my form finally stopped tumbling, then on my way back to the public barbecue boxes lined with tin-foil and filled with grey suet, the Gods offered up others hidden amidst the heavy trunks of spruce and oak. I delight in, recalling the unfamiliar high-pitched rapid chatter of my father and uncle serendipitously searching for the missing puzzle pieces under branch and even overhead along the power wires, their joy as electrified as those wires and rare as recess on the first warmed spring morning. And those zoris stung the crevasse between my big toe and the unproportionally extra-long one next to it anyway; I would rather go barefooted.
Guttle moans and choice expletives rang towards the sky weaving hymnal and curse. Before long, my father’s cleverness and uncle’s creativity combined and the discovered rotomolded pieces linked and took form. She was ready for christening. Except for blue seat-rest that should have plugged into the open red plastic peg holes along the low-riding chassis, the Marx “Big Wheel”, with manhole size front tire, was cobbled together – finger warn shoelace held together the cracked steering axle, a car scrapper was used as a wheel brake, and momma’s makeup case served as the rearview mirror.
Uncle Bill held his arm to the square and eagerly agreed to assume the role of crash test dummy for the inaugural function test of their converted prototype. We watched with held breath, Aunt Nancy uttered prayer, as he launched from the crest of the hillside and plummeted to the cavern of lost zoris and then skid sideways, just like the commercial, and faced back towards us onlookers, eight delighted faces each filled with excitement and impatience towards wanting, no, needing to be next.
Richard Petty, seven times Nasar champion and Dayton 500 winner, who received the Medal of Freedom from President George Bush in 1992, once said, “Cats know, comin’ out on four, they better be standin’ on it, else they’ll be standin’ in it.” None of us were standin’ in it by the end of the day we all took our turns and rode vicariously over each airborne bump and sideways spill while we waited, our novice racing skills and courage accelerating with the adrenalin driven lifting of our souls.
Even my mother, the one forever touching up her matted rose lipstick and placing her curls under beautifully patterned silk scarfs, gave herself permission to release the exultant child as she screamed a barroom yell the entire length of the makeshift raceway. Even on that day I told her she looked like a movie star, and when, much later in life, I reminded her of that most worshiped adventure, she reminded me that she would not have participated in such irreverent behaviors, but I knew her hiding masks and I knew better.
Each time I hear the roar of a car racing around an oval or hear the squeal of a child racing on a tricycle down the sidewalk, I remember the day when time stood still, and God and I made a trade. A beautiful trade full of memories for my foam shoes. I wonder if momma is wearing my zoris.