“What happened to you?” my wife asked.
My pants legs were in tatters.
“Ike raked me with his claws.”
Ike is the big Chesapeake Retriever who lives up the road. He is Scooter’s best friend and every day on our walk, Ike comes bounding out to greet us and let’s just say he gets a little carried away.
When he jumps up on me, his claws usually leave no more than a pale trace across my blue jeans, but as a result of almost daily washings, my jeans are no longer blue – nor Ike resistant.
“Hey,” I said, “now I’m stylish. All the kids are wearing torn blue jeans.”
“Think again,” she told me, “their rips are horizontal, yours go vertical.”
“Is that a big deal?”
“It is everything.”
So I set about repairing my pants.
“What in the world are you doing?”
I thought it obvious. “Fixing my pants,” I replied.
“With duct tape?”
She was speechless.
Patching pants used to be a big thing when I was a kid. I always wore patched pants. Everyone did. In fact, everyone had to. It was more or less mandatory.
We all attended the same Catholic grade school and in their infinite wisdom, the nuns required every child to wear a uniform. Only the patches made us unique.
The boys uniform consisted of a blue polo shirt spun from the finest steel wool. The corduroy pants were even tougher. Rumor had it they were woven out of recycled snow tires. They felt like it too.
There was only one rule for wearing this uniform. You were allowed to appear clean and unfrayed all the way until morning recess on the first day of school.
After that, you were required explain to the nuns and your mother why your scuffed up knees and bloody elbows showed through your shirt and pants. These explanations were a yearly ritual and everyone understood that the feigned expressions of shock and anger as well as the tearful apologies were less than sincere.
The next morning, we gathered to compare our patched uniforms – and thus determine our social status for the year.
What you did NOT want was your mother to cut up your last year’s uniform and carefully stitch a patch across the knees and elbows – because anything that pleased a mother was NOT something that pleased a schoolyard full of peers.
What you wanted was one of those iron on patches.
They were a rectangle of indestructible fabric, soaked in industrial glue. The glue was melted onto your clothing by heating it with an iron – and they never, ever, came off.
The preferred application of the patch was at an aggressive angle. An angle that spoke to the rage of a mother whose son had just destroyed a pair of pants that cost ten dollars of hard-earned money!!
But the very best patch, one that was worn with pride and jealously coveted, was a black band of electrical tape wrapped multiple times around the knee. These we sometime applied ourselves over the carefully stitched patches that our mothers spent hours trying to get just right.
Which brings me back to duct tape.
Ignoring the disdain of my wife, who is in fact a mother, I reverted back to my youthful knowledge of how to fix pants – and taped them up just right.
After I finished, she appraised my work and delivered her critique.
“You missed a spot.”
“Go into the bedroom. Stand in front of the mirror then turn around and look over your shoulder”
“Holy-Moly!!” I exclaimed, “how long have I been walking around with split pants?”
“Weeks,” she said, “I’ve been waiting for you to catch on.”
She then handed me the duct tape.