Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Footloose and Shoe Free

It's easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world
Al Franken

Growing up in the Old Country, I never ever wore slippers. Despite the fact that winter was 9.5 months long, and the average temperature was about minus 102 (Celsius!), and there was 25 meters of snow outside the doors, the house was always toasty warm. I wore socks indoors, without shoes. We all did. When we entered the house, we would take off our boots (and for 2.5 months our shoes/sandals/sneakers), leave them in the coat closet, and remain only in socks, and for a few days a year – in the heat (everything is relative) of summer – we would go barefoot. My parents, who apparently were mature, wore slippers sometimes; but not always. There was also the issue of the wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house – my mother didn't want our muddy/snowy/generally-dirty shoes making a mess. Socks were cleaner (well, maybe not my socks…).

Here in Israel, things are only slightly different. I still never wear shoes/sandals/sneakers in the house (I even take my off shoes at work. People stare, but who says freedom doesn't have a price?) But here, I don’t wear socks very often either. For the first few years I lived in Israel, I NEVER wore socks. I remember being outside in sandals on a beautiful sunny December day and thinking ‘take that, Old Country!’

An average winter day in Israel

As a pointless aside, my kids wear socks more often than I do. They wear socks for sport classes at school, when they go hiking, in the army, and even (the boys) on Shabbat. Once every three months or so, we play the sock game where the kids not only have to match all the clean socks that had been living in a laundry basket for three months, but they have to claim ownership. Not an easy task when all the socks are of identical pattern and the size. I dump out the socks from the basket onto the floor and nobody is allowed to move until the socks are gone. As the washing machine also claims a few (and obviously not pairs), this game has been known to last weeks. I've had to buy new socks, throw away one, and match the other to a washing-machine-created orphan sock just so the kids can stop playing.

So, while socks are out, slippers are a whole other ball game.
I wear slippers during the 2.5 months of Beer Sheva winter for the following reasons:
  1. Houses in Israel, especially in Beer Sheva, are constructed to withstand the heat. They are usually made of stone, with flat, white roofs so as to remain as cool as possible during the long, hot summer. 
  2. Because of #1, the temperature inside my house is cooler than the temperature outside my house. 
  3. We don’t have wall-to-wall carpeting. That would make the rooms warmer, and our goal is to make the rooms cooler. We won’t talk about the dust issue involved in w2w carpets. 
  4. What we have on the floor are ceramic tiles, and keep the floor, ergo the house, cool(er). 
  5. In the winter, the temperature inside the house – remember, it’s cooler inside the house than outside – can drop to 10 deg. Really. 
  6. The floor tiles, in winter, can freeze your feet off. 
  7. As I still occasionally use them, I dislike having my feet frozen off. 
Hence, the need for slippers.

Socks are for kids, and barefoot is cool (in the hippie sense, not in the ‘my feet are freezing off’ sense). But slippers are for grown-ups. So this leaves me in a quandary; do I grow-up and save my feet or do I remain true to my childlike (some would say immature, but I prefer childlike) self and forgo any trappings of adulthood?
And so, to solve this dilemma, we invented the annual “Ugly Slipper Contest” (we being me and my vastly more mature daughters).

The idea is that you have to find the ugliest slippers possible and wear them.
I always win.
This is because, as I've said, both my daughters are vastly more mature than I am and, after the initial giggles, they don’t really want to wear blue sparkly slippers with feathers.

But I do.
It’s amazing how many really ugly slippers there are out there. (I'm putting this in as a link, because even I can't stand the look of these slippers.)

We started out with Kippi slippers (named after the Israeli Sesame Street character Kippy Ben Kipod, who is a hedgehog [kipod in Hebrew – so his name is Kippi the son of a Hedgehog] and is roughly equivalent to Big Bird. Kippy is a boy, but is played by a girl).

Kippi Ben Kipod

Kippi wears ‘na’alei bayit’ (slippers), but of a particularly Israeli kind. In the olden days (up until about 10 years ago) Kippi slippers were available everywhere, and people wore them everywhere; shopping, to take the kids to school, to get your hair done, to work, to weddings…
Na'ali Bayit aka Kippi slippers
We've had blue slippers, and purple slippers, and pink slippers, and even all three colours at once. We've had fluffy slippers, scratchy slippers, and slippers that looked like rabbits. We've had slippers adorned with beads, glitter, feathers, and one pair, I could swear, was decorated with hardened humous.

Once, while visiting Jerusalem, I spotted the ugliest slippers ever. They cost a fortune, but nonetheless, I had to be torn away from the shop by my niece so that I wouldn't pollute Beer Sheva with them. But I so would have won. For years.

The nighttime temperature went down to 15°C a few days ago. This means that winter in on its way. It’s not actually here yet, because the daytime temperature is 31°C. (I heard there was snow already in the Old Country. Take that Old Country!!)

I therefore declare the Ugly Slipper Contest officially opened. The contest is open to one and all and there will be no prejudice regarding race, religion, colour, sex, nationality, or politics. The only requirement is the contestant needs to be immature childlike.
A few Previous Years' Winners - the ones we didn't throw out

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