Sunday, November 26, 2006

Beading Boy

My mother is visiting us from Olympia, Washington--near Shipwreck Beads, the hugest and most intimidating bead store I've ever seen. Mom loves beads but doesn't like Shipwreck (neither do I, but not because of the size), so whenever she comes to Oak Park, we go to our neighborhood bead store, Bead in Hand. This time I dragged her and Elliot to the new, much fancier bead store in the next town over, just to see what it was like. I felt guilty going there, because I'm worried that they'll put Bead in Hand out of business; I promised myself that I'd just look there and then buy what I wanted at Bead in Hand. As it turned out, the new place was no great shakes, and the prices were considerably higher than at "our" store. I did pick up some French coil, something I hadn't seen at Bead in Hand, and some paper that would work for origami.

As we were shopping at the new store, Elliot kept asking whether we could go directly to Bead in Hand when we were done at the new place, something I hadn't planned on doing. I finally got him to tell me why he was so eager: he wanted to make himself a necklace.

Now, Elliot is a magpie of the first order: he has been buying beads since he was about four, and he's almost always reluctant to make anything with them (though he has made some lovely things for me over the years). He mostly likes looking at beads, touching beads, and imagining what he could do with them--but then not doing what he imagines. He also pores over the Shipwreck catalog the way I used to memorize the Penney's Christmas catalog. It's a little obsessive. I was surprised, then, to hear that he wanted to make something for himself to wear. Turns out his schoolfriend Luke, who is a couple of years older than Elliot and the athletic hero of the kids at their Montessori school, has been wearing a choker with greyish beads and lots of little skulls.

Curious to see what Elliot would put together, I told him he could spend $3. A minute into the shopping process, I saw that he wouldn't be able to buy much for that, so I upped his limit to $5. He was able to get just two little skulls (but they were really cool) and a bunch of miscellaneous bone and glass beads. He wanted to get letters spelling out "El Loco," but he didn't have enough money. I picked up 50 mauve pearls to string together with the French coil, and we headed home.

The next day, it became clear that Elliot didn't have nearly enough beads to make his necklace (is his neck bigger than either of us realized? He is growing so fast....). I also realized that I would never be able to work on my own project if I didn't buy a lot of plastic beads with holes big enough for Astrid's blunt needle. She was driving me crazy because the beads she had were too small. (I was not going to make the mistake I'd made early last summer, when I gave her a smaller, sharper needle. If I was sitting right next to her, what trouble could she get into? This was my brilliant question to myself right before she pierced the skin between her thumb and index finger. "And the award for Mother of the Year goes to....")

So we headed back to Bead in Hand for $5 worth of plastic pony beads for Astrid, another $4 of ponies and colored letter cubes for Elliot, and some sterling clamshells and S-hooks for the necklaces I was working on. We got home and beaded happily for about 90 minutes, long enough for Elliot to finish his necklace (which he's been wearing nonstop) and for me to complete two necklaces with hardware for opening and closing (a first for me, as I always make things that are stretchy and go over the wearer's head.)

I felt a little surprised that Elliot wanted a necklace, but when I thought about his friends (all of whom are between 7-11 years old), I realized that he's one of the few boys who *hasn't* been wearing a necklace or rings. His best friend, Atzin, wears two or three rings at a time. So I guess it's not the landmark that it feels like. He seems happy, both with his handiwork, and with his "look," so I feel happy, too.

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