There's still room to spare for my son's fashion feats

Do you have enough wiggle room for your toes?" the shoe salesman asked my 12-year-old son as he test-walked and hopped in his pricey new sneakers. I wondered if I had enough wiggle room in my checkbook.

The salesman dug his thumb into the sneaker toe and calculated that there was a good "thumbnail's worth" of space. At the rate the kid's feet were growing, I calculated that he'd outgrow a thumb's worth after three more orders of spicy fries.

"Are they comfortable?" the salesman foolishly asked, as if comfort should be a criterion for shoe-buying at age 12.

My son nodded and stepped over to the knee-high mirror to admire his footwear while coming, going, and scooting sideways.

Finally, he gave a thumbs up.

"They're cool. I'll take these."

We'd already bought the trendy low-cut athletic socks, which barely peeked over the edge of the shoes. We called these "footies" in my day, when only matronly females wore them. The fancy ones had pastel rabbit tails bobbing at their heels. Still do.

Overnight, it seems that the kid has reached that finicky age where he's on full-time fashion alert and mortified by a father who stretches his own socks up to his knees and a mother who laughs about "footies."

"This is what golfers wear," he'd already informed me about the, uh, socks-in-training. "And, by the way, please don't talk so loud, Mom."

I whispered to him that my hearing was impaired after years of listening to his siblings' loud, obnoxious music.

Yes, he's growing up and galloping into teenhood, I thought during this shopping trip. We'd already combed the clothes racks for the must-have cargo shorts and T-shirts with the proper name brands.

Not so long ago, he'd wear anything I hung in his closet, even third-hand from a garage sale. Now, just the idea that his mother pokes through strangers' cast-off clothes and bud vases and such is enough to wreck his life forever.

In seventh grade, he's at that age where his father and I quickly are becoming ghost parents. Soon, he won't be able to see us or hear us in public. We'll call his name, but he'll look the other way. We'll be invisible, except for our glowing pockets.

I reached for my iridescent checkbook while the salesman boxed up his new sneakers.

Then the salesman stopped, lid in hand, and studied my son.

"If you want, I can pack up your old shoes, son, and you can wear these new shoes right now," he said.

"Yeah!" my son shouted.

Thank goodness we've still got a little wiggle room before he grows up completely.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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