When I was a kid, I hated picture day at school. It seemed that no matter how I tried to tame it, my hair would do that weird half flip half flop thing it does at the ends. Whichever outfit I picked out the night before school had suddenly and dramatically changed in the light of day. The look I had hoped to achieve magically evaporated overnight and left me with some random jumble on hangers. Then there was the threat of pulling my head back too far resulting in at least three chins. That could only be outdone by sticking my neck to far forward and looking like a baby ostrich. Upon receiving the proofs weeks later, I don’t think I ever once nodded to myself in approval of the image. Of course I love them all now.
This gem? I love it all. I love the bangs I tried to recreate from all of the eighth graders I saw at the mall on the weekends (which I failed at miserably). I remember this brocade(ish) vest both because it tied in the back and the silhouette it made when paired with my M.C. Hammer parachute pants. The smattering of buttons? I have no words for those.
Memories may fade, but those Lifetouch school portraits remain. Our kids are growing up in a time where we can edit or erase any signs of awkwardness (or play it up if that is the slant we are taking). They can take (and filter) hundreds of pictures, before settling on the one they are content with. It’s a process that can be repeated almost anywhere. Except, of course, with those school pictures.
When the photographer sets up in the cafeteria or gymnasium, they have an assembly line to work through. It’s not their fault if a student just finished P.E. class, or was assigned to the last time slot of the day. We proudly have framed photos of the girls, flushed cheeked, with rumpled polos and hair that looks like it was whipped by egg beaters because of the combination of having P.E. and the last appointment for pictures to be taken…
There is a place for edited photos and I swoon at the images of the kids that we have had done professionally. But I want the stock poses too. I want the print of their frozen smiles in front of the faux marble background, knowing that they stood on pieces of ripped masking tape organized side by side in a “x” pattern. I want the souvenir of the wild hair that was soothed out by hand because the flimsy black comb they were handed was no match for combating the results of a kickball championship.
This morning it took about 40 minutes to blow dry both girls’ hair and I am almost certain there will be no evidence of my effort when the photos arrive. That is okay too. I will remember the moments they spent picking the perfect headband and grimacing as I tried my best to untangle their knots. I will recall looking in the mirror at us together; me overtired and not quite convinced that I could pull this all off before the school bell rang and each of the girls, uncomfortable with the tugging but right at home with being cared for.