Picture Day

Picture Day

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Picture Day

It was Picture Day at my daughter’s preschool, and Nicolle was in tears.

“I’m going to wear my Easter dress for my picture,” Nicolle had announced earlier that morning: the one with the frilly, puffy collar, which I secretly thought made her look like a clown. Naturally I already had her photograph fixed firmly in my mind, framed and displayed proudly on the piano. In it, she had adorable pigtail braids, and was wearing the navy blue sailor dress. She was definitely not in the Easter clown dress.

She cried, she pleaded, but although I offered a measure of sympathy, I was unwilling to surrender the image in my mind’s eye.

“If I can’t wear my Easter dress, then I’ll look like this in my school picture,” she announced, pouting dramatically, her lower lip puffed out like a little strawberry.

Luckily, Nicolle attends afternoon preschool, so I had several hours to pull as many tricks as possible from the proverbial mommy hat. Finally, after deftly maneuvering a little creative compromising, threatening and (okay, I admit it) bribery, Nicolle was ready for Picture Day. In a small triumph for the mommy camp, she was wearing the darling navy blue sailor dress. However, as a compromise, she was also wearing her hair down, unbraided—prone to be flyaway and quickly tangled, mind you—but the way she wanted it. I prayed for a photographer who was handy with a comb, and we set off on our carpool rounds.

Usually Lindsey was stationed at the front door, ready to be taken to school, but today when I rang the doorbell, it took a few moments before her mother opened the door. She was trying to anchor an enormous pink bow to Lindsey’s hair. I noted Lindsey’s pretty pink fingernails and wondered if I should have painted Nicolle’s nails too.

After her mother’s fussing, Lindsey was adorable in a frilly pink jumpsuit. She also looked like she was ready to burst into tears. “She wanted to wear a dress,” her mother confided in a stage whisper. She made a few more subtle adjustments to Lindsey’s ensemble, instructed me to make sure the collar on her jumpsuit was straight after she took off her coat, gave Lindsey a kiss, and sent us on our way. As we pulled out of the driveway, I could see Lindsey’s mother peering anxiously from the window after us. The drive to Lauren’s house was uncharacteristically quiet. Lindsey pouted silently out the window at the passing scenery.

Lauren and her mother were waiting for us on their front porch. As I got out of the car, I could see that Lauren’s bangs had been carefully curled and fluffed. Darn it, I thought. I should have curled Nicolle’s hair too.

Lauren scurried toward the car, then slipped and fell to her knees in her shiny black patent leather shoes. Her mother’s mouth froze in displeasure, and her eyes rolled heavenward.

“Lauren, come here,” she demanded in a stern tone. She kneeled in front of Lauren, took her by the shoulders and spoke into her face.

“Remember what I said. Be careful.” Lauren approached my car with her eyes glued to her patent leather shoes.

I found myself struggling to make conversation with the four-year-olds in the back of the car, just to break the unusual silence. In the rearview mirror, I realized Nicolle’s hair had picked up static from her jacket, and was clinging to her face. I wondered if she’d let me put her hair in pigtails once we got to school. I wished I’d brought a curling iron with me, and maybe some fingernail polish.

At school, mothers were lingering, adjusting headbands, tucking in shirts and straightening ties. The children allowed the adults to fuss over them, but as soon as they were released, bolted into the classroom.

I made sure Lindsey’s collar was straight, that Lauren’s bangs were properly fluffed, tried to smooth the static from Nicolle’s hair, then left, trying not to worry.

Later, when I returned to pick up the three girls, I was nearly mowed down by children erupting from the school. Catapulted by pent-up energy, the children were running, jumping, laughing and shouting. Hair was breaking free from ponytails and bows, neckties were merrily askew, collars were crooked and shirttails flapped in the breeze. Nicolle, Lindsey and Lauren were among them, pink-cheeked, uncombed, happy and beautiful.

I wished I had my camera.

Carolyn C. Armistead

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