You may think that I am going to take some kind of exception to the Olympic Games event they call Greco-Roman Wrestling. But no, I am going to write about feet. A chancy subject to be sure.
In his gorgeous film Out of Africa, Sidney Pollack has Denys Fitch Hatton remark, "Did you know that in all of literature, there is no poem celebrating the foot. There's lips, there's eyes, hands, face, hair, breasts, legs, arms, even the knee, but not one verse for the poor old foot."
Karen Blixen responds with a couplet: "Along he came and he did put, upon my farm his lovely foot." If the subject is good enough for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, it’s plenty good enough for me.
Neither is this about a fetish. Celebrated as the foot is the annals of abnormal psychology, I am not going there either. This is about members of my family ridiculing, not my whole foot, but my little toes. My pinkie toes are not straight, the way perfect little toes are supposed to be. They twist a bit, as if they are trying to kiss the next toe over. My husband and daughter used to point and laugh at them.
Then one day, in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, I discovered the truth about my little toes. They are a badge of my Greco-Roman heritage. The gallery of ancient sculpture in that magnificent treasure trove features many statutes on high pedestals. As I walked through the exhibition, in awe of the beauty of the ancient works of art, perhaps because the feet we're at my eye level, I suddenly noticed that the Greek feet before me looked just like mine. I went up and down the gallery. ALL the statues—Roman and Greek—had little toes exactly like mine.
This is sensible genetically, since my ancestors on my father’s side were from Siracusa in Sicily, formerly the Greek city state of Syracuse. My mother came out of the gene pool between Rome and Naples. Strange how, though I knew about my heritage, finding this little piece of physical evidence strengthened the bond I already had with my forebears, way back into history. In a way, I was them.
The blood of ancients from some part of this world flows in all our veins. We need to remember that. Maybe it will help us not to take the present too seriously.