Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be.
I have never (purposely) had professional pictures taken of my family. You know the kind, everyone grouped together in matching sweaters. All of us looking at the camera smiling with the “We are such a happy family” gleam in our eyes. Don’t get me wrong, we are a pretty happy bunch. It is just that our kind of happiness doesn’t seem to photograph all that well.
I think that part of the problem is that my kids don’t know how to have their picture taken. This is not for lack of trying. I have spent much time trying to get just one good shot of them together. I have hundreds of family shots, but none where they are all looking at the camera. Getting all of them to sit still and look in one direction for more than a half-second is nearly impossible. Somebody invariably turns his or her head. Somebody bends down, or sneezes, and then… there is Oscar. My constantly moving, curly-haired boy. For years, I don’t think that people believed I had a second son. I would patiently explain, “He’s the one on the right. See that blur over by the window? That fuzzy blue thing? Yup, that’s Oscar!” Needless to say, I have an awful lot of incomplete family photos.
Candid shots seem to work best for us. Our home is filled with them. My children are quite lovely… until they are asked to pose. I don’t know what happens when posing; they seem to take on another persona… a certain gooniness. They don’t look like themselves. They look strange. Nothing proves this better than the dreaded school picture.
I don’t make a big deal of picture day at school. I don’t buy special outfits or dress up the kids. I send them in like I do any other day. I have told them if they choose not to have their picture taken, it is okay with me. I do this especially for Oscar, as he has told me that he doesn’t like it. I don’t intend to buy them anyway. Regardless, they always choose to have them taken, even Oscar.
About three months later, they come home with the pictures. Large packets of them. Eight by tens, five by sevens, wallet size, bookmarks, keychains, refrigerator magnets. Just how many photos does one family need? Judging by what the photo company sends home, apparently hundreds. Hundreds of the worst imaginable pictures ever. There’s Sammy with the enormous head… balding Lily… and Oscar, who after being prompted to smile five million times, looks like the before picture in a laxative ad. Yes, they are that bad. The worst part? Not only do my kids want me to buy them, but they get upset when I say that I don’t want to.
“But Mama…” Sammy says as tears pool in his dark green eyes, “don’t you want a picture of me?”
“Oh, Sammy, buddy… but it doesn’t look like you.”
“Yes, it does!”
“No, honey, your head couldn’t possibly be that large. If it looked any bigger, NASA would send a space probe.”
“But don’t you want it, Mama (hiccup)… a picture of me?” A single tear runs down his rosy cheek.
I say the only thing any self-respecting mother would: “Okay, buddy, if it means that much to you…” I smile, but I am seething inside.
I know what those evil companies are doing. Instead of sending home one picture, they send home the entire package. They know the odds are that our children will guilt us into buying them all.
This year I decided to do something different. Instead of buying them, I just wasn’t going to return them. If the photo company wanted them back, they could come to my house and get them. They could talk to Sammy. Let them have a taste of their own medicine. So I took the packages of pictures and put them in a box in my attic — the same box where I put last year’s and the year before’s pictures. My kids haven’t missed them. I figure that one day, after I am gone, they will find them and wonder, “Just who are these odd-looking kids… and why does Mama have so many pictures of them?”
In the meantime, I haven’t heard a word from the photo company. Cowards.
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