My mother had a thing about bluejeans. She didn't like them. Still doesn't.
I was reminded of this recently when I came across the photo you see at the top of the page. It was the summer of 1959, and my two brothers and I were headed with our parents out to Oregon, where we would visit my dad's very large family. Left to right: Dave (10), Dan (14), Richard (17). My older brother had just graduated from Hiram (Ohio) High School (valedictorian, a distinction he would later share with Dave, but not with me), and I think you can tell from the look on his face that he wasn't exactly delighted about posing for the photograph.
Dave is wearing his red Hiram little league baseball cap (actually, it was the Hot Stove League, but let's not cavil); dangling around his neck is an old Brownie camera. He's also wearing a shirt my grandmother Osborn made with material she'd acquired in England when she and my grandfather were there for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, seven years earlier. All three of us had them; we called them our "coronation shirts." Well, either Dave hadn't grown much in seven years, or he's wearing one that had once belonged to one of his older brothers.
I--in the middle--appear to have had a very recent haircut, a very close haircut. Fashionable. Back then. I also don't seem too concerned about having my shirt tucked in. Snazzy wristwatch.
But what this picture really reminded me of is that not one of us is wearing bluejeans. Here we are--on a cross-country road trip--hours every day in the car--visiting national parks and such--and not one of us is wearing bluejeans.
Three guesses why not.
1. Mom 2. Mom 3. Mom.
Back when we were littler, living in Oklahoma, we wore jeans around--though mine seemed always to have the knees ripped out. (In early elementary school, wearing an over-tight pair, I bent over too quickly, ripped out the rear seam, and got to go home for the rest of the day. My delight at being home trumped my embarrassment of, briefly (get it?), having publicly visible underpants.)
I never saw Mom and Dad wear jeans--except when we were camping, or Dad was going fishing or something--or doing yard work--though he often wore his old army khakis for those enterprises. Mom--when she was doing work around the house--would wear what were called "pedal-pushers," a design so popular that they made the cover of LIFE magazine the year I was born. Mom's were tighter than what you see in the photograph (fashion had moved on--can you believe it?), and I think I remember that she had two pair: one pink, the other pale blue. They were not denim.
I don't know what turned Mom against jeans. I think it might have been a class thing, though. She was beginning to perceive herself (and the rest of us) more and more as members of the Intelligentsia, and bluejeans (in those days) communicated something much different.
Her animus deepened and calcified as the years went on. Back in the mid 1980s--I was forty, for Pete's sake!--out in the Northwest again for a family reunion, Joyce, son Steve, and I were staying in same Walla Walla, WA, motel with my folks (not in the same room!). We were about to head out for a get-together at my uncle John's, but when Mom saw me--in bluejeans!--she said, You're not going to wear those, are you?
I mumbled something about it's being a picnic ... but her silent Arctic glare sent me back into our room, where I raged, raged, against the dying of the jeans and changed into some chinos. I was pissed. And, later, annoyed when I saw that all my cousins, uncles, aunts were ... in jeans.
Later, now living in a stages-of-care place in Lenox, Mass., Mom tells us not to wear jeans (or shorts) in the facility because they won't allow it in the dining room. Hah! Brother Dave and I have defied her wishes (ain't we brave? and thoughtful?) and often wear either/or when we visit. No employee has ever questioned us--denied us sustenance.
A further defiance: I wear jeans or shorts almost every day of the year. I am wearing jeans as I type these words. What a rebel!