Thank you, Mom. Thank you for buying me my first pair of Levi’s when I was in the 5th grade. My friend Ann had a pair, my friend Valerie had a pair, and even my friend Kathy had a pair, I think. I didn’t know what Levi’s were exactly, but I knew one thing: those pants, they wrinkled behind the knees! I guess they got all wrinkled when you sat down and your legs were bent; like when sitting in class behind a desk all day. But the best part was, when you stood up, the wrinkles stayed there and that was cool! Very cool. At least to me. My pants, not so much. Because you see, Toughskins from Sears were not cool. I don’t think they even qualified as jeans. Or at least they didn’t in 1978. Certainly they were not blue denim. They were all large and roomy and funny colored (burnt umber?) and funny patterned (paisley tweed?) and they were made of some kind of strange material that wouldn’t wrinkle behind the knees even if you sewed them into little “behind the knee pleats”. They may be different now. I don’t know. I haven’t checked Sears lately because of that whole thing when I was in the 6th grade and store security thought I stole I bottle of nail polish, only I hadn’t, and I was scarred for life from the accusation and the meeting with the lawyers and all that, so I avoid the store like I avoid the plague, whenever and wherever I can.
I am pretty sure though, given the school cliques and fashion fads of the late 70s and early 80s that if you hadn’t bought me that pair of Levi’s, I’d have been shunned forever once I hit middle school. I’d have been one of the nerdy kids without friends who dressed poorly not because they were poor but because their parents didn’t realize fashion was becoming the judge and jury of their kid’s lives. As it was, I stared at my friend’s backsides the entire Spring of 5th grade, both at and below their waists, desperately trying to figure out just what exactly, they were wearing. I didn’t understand that Levi’s were properly categorized as blue jeans. I didn’t understand that Levi’s was a brand. I didn’t know about brands. I knew about pants. Some pants wrinkled behind the knees and some (mine) did not. It took me a while to understand the word was Levi’s. I described it to you as a word on a brown square on the back of the jeans above the pocket and that the jeans wrinkled behind the knees and OMG! I had to have a pair. Please? Please? Please?! And eventually I worked up the nerve to ask a friend where she got them and she told me, and I told you, and you took me there and angels sang the Halleluiah because now my pants would wrinkle behind the knees too!
And from there I was pretty much set. I came to understood the power of brands just as they became important. I learned about things like Izod and Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt and Sassoon Jeans and Docksiders and Vans and O.P. (who the hell thought corduroy shorts would be a good idea?) and I had just enough of these fashion essentials to get by. Just enough to fit in.
But that first pair of Levi’s. I wore them out! I wore them until they were two sizes too small and threadbare and even then I couldn’t bear to part with them. I cut the legs off and wore them as shorts for just one more summer and then eventually, I sewed up the bottom leg holes and stuffed them with old rags and clothes that didn’t fit and sewed up the waist and I made a pillow out of those Levi’s. It was the heaviest pillow in the world, considering I’d stuffed it full of my old Toughskins, but it was mine. A cool pillow that looked like a pair of Levi’s denim shorts. My Levi’s. Thanks, Mom.
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Author’s note: This essay is an entry in July’s group writing project over at MommaBlogga. This month’s theme is “Thanks, Mom.” and participants were asked to write about something they are grateful to their mothers for. A winner will be picked at random to recieve a $30 Amazon gift card. Go ahead and participate. You can win! I know it’s possible because last month, I was the lucky winner! Yes, Really! Look here. So you see? All you have to do is enter and this month, the winner could be you! But, uh, I hope it’s me again 😉