“Tag you’re it,” a boy yells as he touches my shoulder on the elementary school playground.
‘Damn,’ I utter in my mind before I continue the game by chasing anyone who I deem slower than me. As my feet touch each patch of dirt, each strand of grass, each piece of the pavement, my white and blue kicks began to blink a red glowing light. The collage of black, green, red, and orange shoes that I chase around also light up the playground in a similar fashion. Eventually, the monkey bars, the red fire truck, and the silver smooth slides have a better light display than Macy’s at Christmas time.
Light up shoes.
I think it was around my ninth birthday that I traded in my light up shoes for a billion light up smiles—when I went from chasing kids and stringing blinking Christmas lights on the four square boxes and dodgeball circles to causing a contagious strands of smiles, ones as big as the acre of land that stretched from the fence of the playground to the back parking lot of the school.
When I was in fourth grade, I won the egg award for my smile. And when I was a freshman in college, the assistant athletic director said to me, “Smile more. You have a wonderful smile.”
I think it was around my sixteenth birthday that I first traded in that light up smile for a look of angst as I became a broody teenager who suddenly thought not smiling was the cool thing to do—who believed that an angry look far exceeded the power of a happy one. I was pretty emo. (Ha)
But near the end of college, like the time I traded in my light up shoes, I found a way to trade back my angst and broodiness for my light up smiles. I found ways to make the Rhode Island athletic fields look like the exterior décor of the Empire State on a clear night—I found a way to light up the world again with that brilliant smile that I once bared in the cafeterias of my elementary and middle schools—on my first day of high school softball practice, and on that last day of high school in which I went from smiley to broody.
As I took a seat on the train, just the other day, a child sat across from me with furry, calf high boots, that blinked that brilliant red light I recognized from the playground. I smiled with each blink the young girl’s boots made. And with my smile—I took a look around the train, and made “smile contact” with a stranger, and just like that a strand of shining smiles began to blink on what would normally be a dull tooth ache of a subway ride. Smiles—the light up shoes of adults.
With each stride I take, I’ve got another smile for another purpose, for another person, for another memory, for another reason. For each step I take I light up from cheek to cheek, and like yawns…it catches. And for that thought, I smile again.
How do you light up the room? Do you have a billion smiles? I bet you a pair of light up shoes that you do.