It’s a perfect opportunity for a family photograph. We’re all vacationing together this weekend.
“Be at the lake at ten o’clock tomorrow before the crowds come down to the water. Wear a white shirt with jeans or chinos,” Melinda, our daughter-organizer announces.
Getting all 13 of us into the right clothes and to the right place is the easy part. The hard part is about to begin. Kim, the photographer we hired, assigns us places in formations, poses and positions.
“OK: first a group shot. Honey, stand over there next to your brother.
“No!” Violet shouts. “I want to stand near mommy.
Uh oh, thinks Kim, a “terrible two”. If Violet has a tantrum now, this photo shoot is ruined. Kim smiles at Violet and says in a saccharine voice, “OK, sweetie, how about standing near your brother just for this one little picture?”
“NO!” says Sebastian even more emphatically. “The boys want to be together. Violet can’t stand here,” he pouts.
“That’s alright”, says her mom, Amy; “Violet, come and stand next to me.” Violet triumphantly marches to her mommy’s side. Kim takes a deep breath and quickly snaps the picture.
My composition for the group is ruined, but at least we avoided a screaming scene, Kim thinks. But nobody looks very happy. “How about some nice smiles this time?” she suggests to the somber group before her. They stare at her with varying expressions of boredom, disapproval and annoyance. She’s got to think of a way to get some pleasant expressions on their faces. “Sweetie, what’s your stuffed animal’s name?” she asks Violet.
“Piggy.” We all laugh.
“OK; everyone say, ‘Piggy’. Good smiling, gang. Now grandparents and grandkids together.”
“Daddy, you promised we’d play soccer after breakfast,” complains Xander.
“Xander, we will play soccer, says Kevin. Let’s just pose for a few more pictures and then you and I will go.”
“But Daddy, you promised.”
“Xander, look at my watch,” Uncle Mark tactfully intervenes. “When the big hand is on the 11 you and Daddy can leave and play soccer.”
Attention once again was on the photographer. “Grandma and Grandpa sit in those chairs. Children, gather around Grandma and Grandpa”.
“Matthew, what’s the matter?”
“The sun is in my eyes”, squints Matthew.
“We’ll fix that. Everyone, try turning a little to the left,” says Kim.
“No, David, that’s the right. Turn the other way.”
“Ow, stop stepping on my toes, David,” squeals Julia.
“Alright, alright, children”, says, Steve. “Let’s cooperate.”
“But Daddy, I can’t help it if David stepped on my toes. That really hurt”, Julia grumbles.
“Daddy, when are we going to play soccer?” Xander reminds Kevin
“Mommy, I’m thirsty”, interrupts Sebastian.
“How did I get into this?” thinks Kim. “I left my job in corporate sales because of stress!”
We get through the morning, while Kim snaps, changes film and changes lenses. As the lake begins to fill with activities of other guests our small private turf becomes a path through which water-skiers, boaters and swimmers meander. The photo shoot ends. What a relief it is to stop smiling.
When the weekend ends and we go back to our respective homes, we await the signal telling us the photos are available for on-line viewing. The message comes; we view, and see brash, unflattering reality.
Our family cliché awaits us; two grandparents smiling eagerly, surrounded by six grandchildren impatiently waiting to run off and play. And our adult children, dutifully posing for posterity.
Do all children learn the same imitation of a smile?” Teeth together, lips apart, eyes unsmiling. The non-smile ‘smile’ is evident in every proof. “
Then come the comments:
“This would have been a good group shot, but Kevin’s eyes are shut.”
“Yuk! Look at this one; I look pregnant”.
“I hate my hair. It looks so flat!”
“This is a good shot of me, but Steve has a weird expression”
“I look fat.”
“I look tired.”
Each of us is our own worst enemy and most critical foe. As judgmental as we are about how we look, we will never be younger than we are that day. We are all relatively healthy, reasonably happy and amazingly resilient.
We all belong in this wonderful, perfect family portrait!