A local Boy Scout troop delivered bags and bags of mulch the other day, stacking them neatly next to the garage. When Rebeka asked what mulch was, we tried to explain it was kind of like crushed up trees, kind of like dirt, and we spread it in the flowerbeds. She was intrigued when I told her it was kind of like when we picked up leaves, but instead of picking it up, we would spread it out. Rebeka had great fun picking up leaves earlier this year.
The next couple days, every time we drove into the garage, she would ask about the mulch. “When will we do it?” This afternoon, the anticipation got too great for her. She explained how she would beg Clay, “Pleeeease can we spread the mulch?” Beg she did, punctuating it with one of her signature, high-pitched squeals. Benji was disgusted by this mulch enthusiasm. None of our kids are mulch enthusiasts. In fact, Nate gave a soapbox speech at a competition last year all about how much he hates the stuff. Rebeka was able to work her charm, and Clay dutifully hoisted a few bags of mulch into the backyard flowerbeds and they spread it together.
We decided Rebeka should go without her brace while spreading mulch so it wouldn’t get dirty, and we protected her cast by tying a bag on. This naked left foot was something new for Rebeka. She wears her brace all the time, day and night, only taking it off to bathe her foot. She was worried about putting her bare foot in the grass, afraid it would “tickle.” She kept it propped up on the other leg for quite a while, so even her heel wouldn’t touch.
It finally dropped to the ground as she raked the mulch with great vim and vigor.
When we went back inside, I looked at that pretty little naked foot. I usually don’t pay much attention to it, I’m too busy scrubbing it and socking it and bracing it and shuffling Rebeka on to bigger and better things, like breakfast. We tried sliding it into her croc without the brace and realized how tiny it is without all that extra plastic.
There are many words I could use to describe Rebeka. She’s tough. She’s silly, so she fits right in with our family.
She’s mature beyond her years, but at the same time she seems young. She’s ten years old but still gets excited about wearing princess dresses to Disneyland next week. A good word to describe Rebeka would be innocent. And for some reason that’s the word that came to mind when I looked at her little foot. It looked innocent. In it’s current flat-footed state, it hasn’t touched prickly grass or run down the red dirt roads of Rwanda. It hasn’t felt a hot sidewalk or a gritty, sandy beach. And while I can’t wait to see her foot become “seasoned” with grass and sand and sidewalks, I get that it’s hard. I get that it’s been treated with tender care for months and months now, and exposing it to the great big world is going to take some getting used to.
On March 18th her doctor will remove the cast on Rebeka’s right leg and we’ll get our first peek at that other innocent little foot. And while her doctor has seen hundreds of these corrected club feet, we will look at it like Rebeka looked at those bags of mulch, with great excitement. Maybe we’ll even squeal a little. Then it will be casted back up again, for 2-4 more weeks. There is lots of work in our future, lots of mulch to spread, lots of steps to take. Each day is a new day, and we don’t know exactly what to expect. We know how hard it was last time, but we don’t know what this next time will be like. We’re innocent, and so we can be a little excited. I like life that way. Innocent expectation, accompanied by a certain someone’s high-pitched squeal.