“Do you want the classic white ribbon or red?” asked the young, blonde Tiffany’s sales associate.
My 17-year-old son, Luke, just looked at me. I stared back with a half smile and shrugged. It was his decision. If he was going to start shopping for his girlfriend, Kathleen, at a high-end store like a man about town, then he had to pick out the color of the satin ribbon around which to swaddle the blue box.
When we first approached the store, Luke commented that it looked pretty fancy. “It’s famous,” I informed him. “There’s a movie called Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He had no idea what I was talking about. Nor did he recall running around the ground floor of the famed jeweler when he was about five and came to pick up a ring my husband had bought for me.
He was making a return appearance because, although he had bought Kathleen gifts before (PJs, a charm, a bus ticket to Montauk to spend a summer day with us), this time Luke wanted to step up his game. “Maybe I’ll get a nice necklace. So, where do I go for something like that? I can only spend about a hundred bucks.”
I figured if he was going to buy jewelry he might as well go for it. I went to the computer and brought up the website of Tiffany & Co. And there it was. A necklace. Heart shaped. The price on the nose.
“Thoughts?” I asked.
“Yea, that looks good,” managing to tear his eyes away from Call of Duty. “So can you order it and I’ll give you the money?”
“You’re going to the store.”
“Because it’s a special gift and it would be nice if you actually put a little effort into buying it,” I explained.
He agreed, if I went with him.
Up to the point of entering Tiffany’s, it was just another errand he had to do, with his mother no less. Two steps in though, Luke was like one of those tourists, who stands in the middle of Times Square turning around slowly while looking up at sights he’d never seen and could not believe really existed.
We headed to the elevator, which stops on each floor and the operator announces its offerings in English, Spanish and French. It was just a little too chi-chi for Luke who is used to doing business with the more down-to-earth employees of Best Buy.
Once we got to the third floor, we were directed to the sterling silver counter where the sales associate could see that Luke was a novice, not just as a T&Co. shopper, but jewelry consumer.
She heard me say his name and took the liberty of using it in just about every sentence she said to him. Perhaps it was her familiarity juxtaposed with his feeling like a stranger in a strange land or the sight of her many necklace options she insisted upon showing him, but he started to look freaked out. He stuck with this first choice and while she processed the transaction, Luke looked at me and said, “We can go now, right?”
Not quite. With the payment made, it was time for the wrapping/ribbon selection. He chose the red, as it was appropriate for the holiday.
He couldn’t deal with the multilingual elevator ride again so we took the stairs down. We then went next store to Trump Tower, which houses a Starbucks on its balcony. Drinks in hand, Luke and I walked up Fifth Avenue, passing our original destination. I raised my cup to his and said, “Look, we’re having breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
He still had no idea what I was talking about. Luke had his gift and, unlike me, could have cared less from whence it came.Lorraine Duffy Merkl is a freelance writer in New York City and author of the novel, "Fat Chick".