I walk on my father's feet, so bunioned and bony, through cities he never saw and bookstores he would have crushed to his theological bosom, up paths he never could have climbed those last many years of hip-broken life, into rooms full of people I shrink from but he would have glad-handed, anecdote-regaled, pushed back into a corner with his fire-breathing windedness. I walk on my father's feet, the feet I literally stood on at six to dance with my skyscraper father on New Year's Eve at the van Renterghems' party in Kenge, the party where they brought out the whole pig with the apple in its mouth, oh those Dutch people partying deep in Congo.
I walk on my mother's feet, broad, patient, barefoot feet that kept going and going, slower and plodding but they just kept walking, trailing that oxygen line but still walking. I walk on my mother's feet, on her dry, cracked heels, spidered with lifelines, into rooms full of people she would have loved and listened to, played with, into stores she wouldn't have thought we should pay the prices of, next to friends she would have enjoyed and embraced. I walk on my mother's feet that have grown to this aching age from the little smooth tough feet they were that she washed and tickled and kissed and dried at night in that towel I could disappear in, on the toes she this-little-piggied.
I walk on my sister's feet, but really I just stay home while she goes dancing and running and teaching and swimming, hiking and driving and exploring with her pair. I walk on my obedient feet that grew next to her rebel ones. I walk on my own slow feet while their sister feet run past. We dance fourfooted, quadruple-hipped, knee-squared happy.
I walk on my husband's feet. Oh you know what he did to me, I want to step on them hard in the spikiest heels. But I do walk in his feet. Trying to walk away from his walk, out of his shadow, far away where he cannot sense me, follow me, track my prints. His ghost steps still keep pace.
I walk on my firstborn's feet. I stand in the shadows, watching how he might walk on mine. I want to wait tucked-away quiet behind the floor-length curtains while he deep-dances on African stages, tour-guides on beaches he is stepping onto for the first time, climbs into hunting blinds to breathe predator-still.
I walk on my lastborn's feet. They are too big for me. He is running away with me, far and close, I am on tiptoe and still - no, I must leave him his feet, I must set him free. He is thundering away, I am still here standing on these my feet. I cannot follow him.
I stand on my feet. In my feet. Poor feet, I forget that they are every minute as old as I am, they have loyally gone everyplace I ever took them, they have gone through all the joys and wringers with me, bearing more weight and having less choice. I take them off for the night and lay them gently, lovingly, beside the bed.