But when November came, I kept circling and moving “Order black pants!” to the next week.
“Did you get my pants?” my son asked me right after Thanksgiving.
“Not yet,” I replied. “Don’t worry though, I’m on it.”
But before you could say “Jack Frost,” it was already December. My son inquired again. “Are you sure you can’t just wear dark jeans?” I countered, wondering by this point if ordering new pants was really necessary. I seemed to recall something in the letter mentioning dark jeans as an alternative.
But he wasn’t about to be persuaded. My son is both a rule follower (which most of the time I’m grateful for) and a sixth grader who has suddenly developed a sense of fashion. No way was he wearing dark jeans with his concert T-shirt. He insisted his teacher wanted only black pants.
Finally, last week — still days before the concert — I went onlineand found a suitable pair of black chinos. Most deliveries from this particular store arrived in a couple of days. We had plenty of time, I reasoned. Toward the end of the week, my son inquired again.
“Ordered them!” I chirped triumphantly. “On their way.”
When I got a notice that the pants wouldn’t be arriving until Monday, concert day, I still didn’t panic. Surely they’d be here in the morning, Monday afternoon at the latest. I understood I was cutting it close but was strangely confident the fates would align. The concert wasn’t until 7 p.m. after all. Plenty of time.
At 3 p.m. Monday, my son arrived home from school. No pants.
“They’ll be here by 5 at the latest,” I reassured him, although I had no idea if this was actually true. A small hiccup of panic was beginning to form. While he settled in on the couch to watch television, I surreptitiously called a customer service rep, explaining my conundrum, trying to track down the missing pants. Were they on a rogue van traveling around the other side of town?
“It appears they haven’t checked into the station yet,” I was told. “It looks like they should arrive by tomorrow at the latest.” It was all I could do not to reach through the phone and wrap a pair of pants around her neck.
“Tomorrow won’t work,” I explained in a measured tone. “I need them for my son’s Christmas concert. Tonight.”
“Ah, that might be a problem.”
I hung up the phone.
“Everything all set with the pants?” my son called out from the living room. The stinker knew I’d been on the phone the whole time.
“Um, not quite. I think I might need to run to the mall to pick you up a pair.”
“What?” He actually got up off the couch and came into the kitchen so I could witness his disbelief. Yes, I had let the ball drop. Somehow, even though I’d known since October that these pants were needed, I'd screwed up.
“No big deal.” I tried to shrug it off, fake a sense of calm. Everyone knows if you act calm in a hostile situation, things go more smoothly.
I grabbed my keys, told him I’d be back within the hour, and scooted out the door. I tried to see the humor in the situation because isn’t that what people are always telling you to do?
Target was my first destination. I was pretty certain they had just the chinos I was looking for. My heart leaped when I saw a rack of tan and black chinos all lined up in a merry row. I scanned through the black ones quickly, but there didn’t seem to be a size 12. That would be decidedly unfunny. But the black pants jumped from a size 10 to a size 14. Nothing in between. All the other uber-prepared mothers had already picked the rack clean.
Not to worry — I was at the mall! I headed to another shop, a sure bet for my son’s clothing in the past, but although there was a cornucopia of tan chinos, there was not a single pair of black. Meanwhile, stacks of black leggings were piled high in the girls’ section, as if to taunt me. I won’t lie: I considered my son in those leggings for a brief moment.
Still, I wasn’t overly discouraged. There was a department store, where I spied the boys’ chinos straight away ‒ and they had black! Do you think they had a size 12, however? They did not. At this point, I might have been talking out loud to myself. Do you recall the scene from “Father of the Bride” where Steve Martin kind of loses it in the hot dog bun section? I held out the size 14, which looked enormous, and then the size 10. I tugged on the bottoms, trying to stretch them out, convincing myself they’d fit my kid. I mean, he’s 11. Size 10 is awfully close.
I’ll spare you the details about the checkout experience, where there was only one register open with one salesperson and, naturally, a woman with an armful of returns right in front me.
“Are you almost home?” my son texted me in line.
“Almost,” I lied.
“Have 2B at school by 6,” he texted, as if I needed reminding.
“Not a problem!” I wrote back.
The pants paid for, I hurried to the car and raced to get home. It was now 5:25. This time, the phone rang. It was my son calling. “Where are you?” I could sense the creeping panic in his voice.
“Almost there. Just a few more minutes.” I was about seven minutes away.
“I’m gonna be late.”
“No you aren’t.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Okay, see you soon.” I might have hung up on him.
When I walked into the house, he was standing in the hallway, waiting. Thankfully, he was already in his shirt ‒ and pantsless. I held my breath as he wiggled into the new pair.
“They fit!” I exclaimed, giddy with relief.
“They’re a little short,” he said, which, coming from my son at this moment, sounded like a huge compliment.
“Not really,” I reassured him. “Nothing a pair of black socks won’t fix.”
“I’m in the front row.”
“Really?” I raced upstairs to find a pair of matching black socks, which is actually harder than it sounds. We got to the school at the nick of 6.
When my husband climbed into the car, I tried to prepare him for what he might see. I could tell he was struggling not to laugh. “I’m sure it will all be fine. Thanks for handling it.” I wanted to lean over and kiss him, but we were in a rush to get back to school for a coveted parking space.
As I watched my son and his middle school classmates parade onto the risers for the show, I finally allowed myself to relax. He was chatting with the kid standing next to him, completely unfazed. My husband and I looked on with all the other proud parents as our little angels sang their hearts out. So what if his pants were a tad on the short side?
On the ride home, we complimented him on a great job. I couldn’t help but point out, though, that more than a few of his classmates were wearing jeans, even gray sweatpants.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “My teacher said black pants, though.” As if it were obvious that he was still in the right. My husband reached over and squeezed my hand, whether in solidarity or to keep me from screaming, I couldn’t be sure.
Good thing there wasn’t a package waiting for us on the doorstep when we got home.
Wendy Francis is the author of four novels, including The Summer of Good Intentions and the forthcoming Best Behavior, due out in May 2020.