I am waiting for my car to be inspected, along with a part replaced due to a recall on my Honda Accord. The technician told me it would take about an hour and a half to complete the job. He shows me to the waiting area where the TODAY Show is playing annoyingly loud. I sit down and look at the other waiting customers who all have their noses buried in their phones. I glance at the variety of magazines, but am not intrigued. After a few minutes of listening to Martha Stewart show Hoda Kotb how to peel garlic without using her hands, I knew I couldn’t sit there any longer, so I decide to go in search of a cup of coffee. I find a vacuum carafe, pour a cup and stir in powdered non-dairy creamer. I find a quiet table in the showroom to sit down and make a to-do list. It is the kids’ first full week of school and between signed syllabuses, multiple checks written for a variety of things, three-ring binders coming out of my ears, new sneakers and gym uniforms, I remember that tomorrow is picture day. It is only the sixth day of school and I’m tired and broke. Who schedules these things? Thoughts go through my head, “Should we get Ethan’s hair cut after school today?” He is in that in-between stage of the ‘summer buzz cut’ and ‘no real style yet.’ Not the best look going at the moment, but that would add another $21.00 to the cost, so I think we’ll pass on the hair cut….
As I think back on Ethan’s school pictures, I fondly remember his third grade picture in which I sent him to school in a nice button down plaid shirt. He decided to take that shirt off at recess so he wouldn’t get it dirty. Good thinking on his part, but they went directly from the playground to the photographer. His picture is of a sweaty, red-faced boy in a white Hane’s undershirt. I have 2 8x10s, 3 5x7s and 100 wallets of this precious memory. The next three years, he managed to wear the same bright orange shirt. Last year, I opened his package and thought, “Finally, a great school picture!” His hair looked great and he had the best smile that showcased his new braces. At closer glance however, I discover they took the picture after lunch. Food in the braces – yummy. Another $45 down the tube.
School pictures are the worst, but such a tradition. They awkwardly pose our kids, make them smile on demand and you get what you get. I begrudgingly write checks every year to Lifetouch so I can send Grandma pictures that she treasures, so she can show all of her friends and hang them on her refrigerator door with cute magnets.
After four children, I have thousands of school pictures still in their original envelopes with the celophane windows. I have several friends who are amazing photographers, yet I continue to spend a small fortune on these packages year after year. Is it a mom-guilt thing? If I don’t buy the package, I’ll deprive my children of their ‘school-days’ memories? Will my kids feel left out if they don’t show up with their money envelope in hand?
I force down another gulp of my luke warm coffee and I try not to make an ugly face. I shudder and know a drive through Starbucks is in order as soon as I leave here. With thoughts of school portraits, a memory pops into my head of my fifth grade school picture.
Just look at this gem:
I giggle as I recall the story of this photograph….
My mother decided it would be a great idea for me to wear my Girl Scout uniform to school for my class picture. Wearing your Girl Scout uniform to school wasn’t unusual back then- when your meeting was after school in the cafeteria- everybody did it. So when I showed up on picture day in my uniform, my best friend immediately noticed and then reminded me that we didn’t have a meeting that day. I told her I knew that, but my mother wanted me to wear it for my school picture. She then informed me that school pictures weren’t that day- they were the next day. What? Not only did I have to wear my uniform to school on a non-meeting day, but it wasn’t even the correct day for the school pictures! I was so embarrassed! I went though the entire day with people reminding me that I had worn my uniform on the wrong day. I could not wait to get home.
When I returned home that afternoon, I informed my mother what had happened. She could tell by my attitude that I had been completely mortified by the whole experience and that I was not at all happy. It would have been the perfect day to come home to some warm, fresh-baked homemade chocolate chip cookies, but that didn’t happen either.
My mother seemed unaffected by my drama, and then promptly told me to go to my room to change, and to make sure that I hung up my uniform so I could wear it again tomorrow. That’s when time stopped. Everything froze. She could not possibly be serious. I could not live through this indignity again tomorrow. I was panicking! This.was.not.happening.to.me. My life was over. I could already picture the kids laughing at me in my predicament.
The thing is, I knew that I would not win this argument. I was the fourth child, and if I had learned anyting in my 10 years of life, it was that once my mother spoke something, she could not be persuaded to change her mind. Arguing or complaining only cinched the deal all the more. It was my sentence. I bowed my head in shame and slowly walked to my bedroom.
When I woke the next morning, I thought I could fake an illness to escape my fate. After some volleying inside my head, I knew that it was either today or prolonging the agony until make-up picture day. Maybe she would forget, but I knew that would never happen. I resigned myself to my degradation.
The funny thing is, I showed up to school in the same outfit- a Girl Scout uniform- two days in a row, and no one really noticed. At least they pretended not to notice. Other than my best friend who just rolled her eyes, no one said anything. Maybe they felt sorry for me or maybe they just didn’t care, but I walked in expecting to be humiliated and nothing happened.
I got my portrait taken in my Girl Scout uniform and despite my vast array of mixed dentition, I think I looked adorable. I know my mom was happy, she got her wish. When I got home there still were not any warm chocolate chip cookies waiting, but there were homemade brownies – and a big hug.