Picture Day at elementary school was always a challenge. A long line up of kids from your class lined up one after the other. Each one dressed up in their finest outfits or at least their coolest outfits. I remember as a kid trying to maintain some level of coolness as my mom picked out the geekiest clothes and combed my hair in the style to match my clothes. It was alright though because even the coolest kids had moms like mine and their hair actually looked worse.
It was a torturous day as we tried to maintain our hairstyles and keep our clothes clean until we got our pictures taken. There is a reason why photographers ask that the kindergarten and early grades go first because their expectation to make through recess unscathed was much less than the older grades.
One by one an already wearisome photographer rattles off a couple of shots per child and moves one to the next child. “Smile!” he commands not really waiting for a response just clicking the picture with a “Good enough” smirk on his face.
One by one my friends were taken down. Their dorkiness captured forever on film to be produced into an 8 x10 and a couple of wallet size photos for all the relatives to laugh at.
Oh the torture of standing in line, all your friends looking at you weird like they’d never seen you before. Maybe they were secretly giggling at you. Laughing at the dorky haircut your mom just gave you. I’d show them I said to myself. I’m going to do the goofiest smile and make them all laugh. Yeah that’s it! But wait what will my mom say. Mom will freak if she sees a goofy smile in my picture.
Invariably the photographer always captured the very essence of the moment. Not quite a picture perfect smile and not the goofy weird face that would have won respect from the line up behind me but rather somewhere in between.
Years later, I’m a parent and now the roles change as the photographs come back from my children’s own picture day. As the media has gone from film to digital, a new era is brought in. A photographer could surely rattle off twenty pictures in the time it use to take one and there is virtually no cost. Just erase the one with the goofy smiles.
“How did the photos turn out honey?” I ask my wife.
“Hmmf! I could have done better!”
I stare in amazement at the photographs with their supposed grins, not quite a smile and not quite a goofy face that would have brought down the house. I have no response. The memories come flooding back and secretly I smile.
An 8 x10 and a couple of wallet size, please!