Reader, I must tell you the truth. I have been out eating my weight in cookies and perfecting my gin martinis rather than writing. I was making sure not to miss important dates and deadlines for the kids' schools, dealing with a full-blown toddler, and buying Christmas gifts. (Do you know the pressure of putting together stockings that are thoughtful, child-specific, and fair? DO YOU?!) I soaked up time with my sweet sister-in-law, Katie. It was the most time we've ever spent together; and she is so very inspiring. I cooked and cooked and cooked, and yet we spent more money on take-out and convenience food than ever before. My month away from writing FLEW by, and I'm full of food, family memories, and stories to tell.
When Ivo (say: EYE-vo) was 2 years old, he wore hand-me-down superhero t-shirts. Ezra, our older son, was a big fan of Spiderman and Batman. We had some D.C. guys' capes too... well, replicas. Ivo loved to wear all these things, but there was one little problem. People relate to children by asking them about their clothes. Adults try to connect by showing that they understand something about the child. "Hey! Is that batman?" they'd say in the grocery store aisle. They'd smile, proud of their cleverness, at preschool pickup time as they knowingly confided, "Boy, I'm sure glad Spiderman is here today." My little cherub-faced, blond boy would begin to fume. He'd wrinkle his face into a scowl and press his forehead into my denim-clad leg, pulling the corner of my flowy cardigan or oversized hoody around his neck. Taking this retreat as shyness, sometimes the adults would step up their game: "Aw, c'mon Batman! Show us some moves!" That's when he'd hulk out... well, kind of. "MMMMMGGGHHHH!" He'd spin around to show his little, cute, red, angry face. The little fists would ball up tight, and his spine would stretch long as he barked back: "I'M JUST IVO CLARK!"
Just. Ivo. Clark. As he grew older, we helped him learn to use some self-control. He realized that these people were not confused idiots who thought he really was Batman. Ivo hated that they weren't understanding that he was so happy to be and trying to be himself. And "Just Ivo Clark" is one of my very favorite people.
Ivo went from superhero clothes to cowboy clothes. The clothing obsession really started then. Carefully, methodically, by asking for gifts and searching Goodwill, he curated his look. He had every piece he needed: the hat, the boots, the pearl-snap, the suede vest, the belt, the buckle, the lasso, even the bolo tie. I, having avoided looking country-western my entire Texas-born life, thought it was adorable. He would dress up in this "get-up" (as my mother would say) most days. The cowboy phase lasted from age 2.5 through his 6 year old cowboy birthday party, complete with a "Home on the Range" sing-along, which took place this past May. Then, slowly, a more sophisticated Ivo began to emerge. By Christmas, all he wanted was a three piece suit. (Actually, he wanted a suit, a watch, a bank account, skateboard lessons, knee pads for these lessons, and his own chess set. But, mostly, he wanted a suit.) He would shed tears of defeat at the consignment and thrift stores any time we couldn't find all the pieces in a size or color that worked for him. He was downright terrified that I might not get him the suit. "I just really need a suit mom. Please... p l e a s e." You better believe I left no stone unturned until I found that kid a suit. I bought bowties and suspenders for his stocking.
On Christmas morning, Ivo tore into the three-tiered package I had split and wrapped everything in. "Only one thing missing now," he said. "My hat." He had already strongly suggested to one of his grandpas that he should get him a real fedora with a feather on the side. By Christmas night, we were all enjoying the presence of the littlest Irish-Italian (and some other white stuff) gangster ever to grace North Seattle. He looks like Capone, minus the tommy gun. If he would quit wearing the shoulder padded, houndstooth, Designing Women-esque, consigned blazer, he would look more GQ; but this blazer/fedora combo sends a message. YaknowwhatImean? Capisce?
I'm wrong, of course. He doesn't look like anyone else. He's just Ivo Clark, and I love him. And now he has a bank account, but he already lost the watch.