The large fourteen-year old is a creature of habit, or something like that. Three halloweens ago I bought him a long black leather jacket at a thrift store to top off his pirate costume. It’s a woman’s coat (don’t tell him), size XL. There is some fancy embossing, plus suede and other black trim on the wide shoulders, cuffs, and lapels. Very ’80’s. Perfect for a pirate. He loved it and wanted to wear it to school. No way, I don’t want it to get wrecked. But did I ever wear it? No. So finally I gave in and he has literally worn the darn thing every day since. That was almost 2 years ago.
Between the left lapel and the shoulder is a growing collection of buttons. They say things like “Guns don’t kill people, gaping holes in vital organs kill people”, and “You need a hug”, and “May the force be with you”. One button has a picure of Darth Vader and it says “You have failed me for the last time.” Scary. My favorite: “I like poetry, long walks on the beach, and poking dead things with a stick”, and then there’s “I wish an apple a day would keep morons away”. Charming. Others are just little images; an owl, Abraham Lincoln wearing a top hat, a cupcake, a smiling cloud, a skull with antennae, a pistol, a bean and a grain of rice shaking hands. This is him. Tough and sweet, a mixed bag. A fourteen year old boy. Joy and angst.
A few months ago he added a top hat to his look. Last summer at the county fair he bought a belt with a red and black Cadillac emblem buckle. He has worn it every day since, and the cheap-o belt part is in shreds. I promised him a new belt this week. There’s a little leather shop in an alley way in the next town over, tucked in with a head shop, a bike shop, and a music school. The other day, sunny and bright, my mom and I cut through the alley on the way to the fabric store. The leather store was open. Large, luminous, musical gourds hung like lanterns outside the music school. An ancient vine crawled up the alley walls, thick, gnarled, and naked. I made a mental note to return with my camera, and Ivan.
Tonight I remembered my promise about the belt. I called the leather store. They were open for another hour. My mom was making dinner, shrimp scampi and broccolini! “We’ll be right back!” Ivan and I jumped in the car and headed east. In less than ten minutes we were in the alley.
The sign on the heavy wooden door was made of leather, very intricate. Inside the dark shop a man with long silver hair sat hunched over his sewing machine. He was friendly and helpful and clad in leather, with sincere, bright blue eyes. There was a pristine and gleaming purple and silver Harley Davidson parked inside the tiny shop, adorned with leather gloves. From the low ceiling and on the walls hung exquisite leather handbags, made by this man’s wife. A magical, funny little shop. No cow leather here. Buffalo hide from the Shoshone tribe and deer hide and others. All wild skins, he claimed.
Ivan chose a black buffalo hide belt, and the man expertly attached it to the Cadillac belt buckle, and made holes in just the right places. Ivan was impressed. “That tool makes perfect holes.”
“That’s what you get in a custom shop. This belt will last you twenty years”, said the man. He was cool. We bought a pair of gloves, too, because we were smitten, and because Ivan needed/wanted a pair. Insulated black leather, of course. The man demonstrated for Ivan how to fold his gloves and put them in his pocket every time he took them off, because otherwise they would disappear, he said. I loved that.
“Thank You, Mom” said the boy in black, as we headed back to the car. “You are so welcome, Ivan.”
So now I have a leather clad, top-hatted, buttoned up teen, whose pants will not fall down for another twenty years, and he is as cute as a purple-haired kid can be.