Oh, picture day. A necessary evil of sorts. I remember back in the late ’70s when I was in elementary school, we all lined up in the gym with our packets and waited our turn to sit in the hot seat. There was usually only one photographer working with a makeshift background setup, taking on the daunting task of trying to capture every single kid at their best.
I even remember before I was in school as a toddler, I would sit up high in the photography studio chair and my mom would spot me from behind as the photographer waved stuffed animals and made funny faces trying to get me to smile. It really is an awkward situation for a child to be in, though now as a parent I know the value of being able to look back on photos of your kids when they were younger. I’m always hit with nostalgia and a big “awwww.” Kids change so much so quickly.
I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve forgotten about picture day until the last five minutes before leaving the house. I’ve had to scramble and try to fish their “good clothes” out of the laundry basket and use the high-heat permanent-press cycle to try to whip them back into acceptable shape before heading out the door.
But this last round of pictures for my 8- and 3-year-old sons was different.
I was on it. I had their clothes picked out and ready for the next day. I actually thought through which clothes would be nice for pictures and also what their favorites were to wear, so the memories would be at a premium and captured in time forever. I lovingly combed their hair and reminded them to smile big for the camera. Our morning on the day of the school pictures was even pleasant: it was like a dream. Easy peasy lemon-squeezy, which believe me, isn’t always the case.
So all of this is to say that I was looking forward to getting their pictures back. But when I saw them, my jaw dropped.
Not even the slightest hint of a smile from either one of them. My youngest actually looked mad in his pictures, and my oldest looked dazed and confused. I showed them to my husband and he about died laughing. You can’t win ’em all, I guess.
We live in a convenient world of retakes, so when I first saw them, it was the first thing that crossed my mind. But then I thought, this is how they were feeling at that exact moment in time. Life isn’t perfect, and I could really see myself years on down the road laughing and affectionately remembering the time neither one of them smiled for their school pictures.
So I bought them.
I’m not going to wallpaper the house with them or anything; I only bought a few of each picture to keep on hand. It’s a tiny snapshot of their lives, regardless of the quality. Time is fleeting, and I want to remember it all. The real stuff: the laughter and the frowns. I have plenty of keepsake pictures of them smiling, so I think it’s okay.
After all, my mom bought this picture of me:
Don’t we all have a picture like this somewhere? I’m even smiling, perhaps oblivious that I was smack dab in the middle of an awkward stage. My mom was proud of me regardless, and as much as I despised that picture when I was older, it was a season of my life that was there. It was a small piece of who I was at one time that led up to who I am now.
And years down the road, when my kids are grown and I am looking through photo albums, I know I will see their pictures as warm, precious memories in my heart, whether the pictures are good or not. And they will make a great story for the future that I will love to tell them.More On