Ah! School picture day in 1972. I remember it well.
Like most kindergarten girls back then, I wore a dress to school every day, but because I wanted to dress up for my very first school picture day, I insisted on wearing a long dress. It was a brown floral print dress with a ruffled hem and a lace-up bodice. My mother told me that the picture would be from the chest up and no one looking at it would ever know that I was wearing a long dress, but I insisted. I loved that dress.
On the walk home from school, my friends and I took a short cut that involved climbing a chain-link fence. My long dress got caught on the fence and it tore. I don’t remember ever wearing it again after that although I’m sure my mother patched the tear. And yeah, aren’t you amazed that elementary school kids had that kind of freedom back then—walking home unaccompanied by an adult, taking short cuts through people’s yards, and climbing fences? It makes me feel like I lived a scene from the Little Rascals.
A couple of weeks later, I discovered the tear in my beloved dress wasn’t as disappointing as the actual picture. When the photographer said “Smile,” I didn’t. I held my mouth in a funny, unnatural position and as a result, the picture didn’t look like me. It looked like some funny-looking kid wearing my dress. I was crushed.
When I showed my picture to my mother, she said, “Eww! What happened to your mouth? Why do you look like that? Why didn’t you smile? You look terrible. You should have this picture taken again.” Her reaction confirmed what I already knew: The picture that would forever immortalize my favorite dress was not my best. I cried, but I refused to have my picture retaken. In fact, my refusal turned into a real power-struggle between the two of us as I realized that there were certain things—like retaking a picture—that she could not make me do. I see this event as the first in many turning points in my childhood.
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, my daughter’s very first school picture arrived today. Instead of being carried home by students, school pictures are now mailed. This meant I saw her picture before she did.
Oh, history repeated itself!
I opened it and eww, it’s bad. Very, very bad. She didn’t really smile. She held her mouth in some funny, unnatural position and well, she doesn’t look like herself. My husband said, “She looks like a claymation character from Wallace and Gromit,” and he was right.
When she got home from school, I told her that her school picture had arrived, and I showed it to her, but did so cautiously. I was prepared to tell her that it was just one picture and that she is so much prettier in real life. My concern, however, wasn’t necessary. Unlike my experience forty years earlier, she did not cry. She didn’t even flinch. Instead, she laughed. “Ha! That doesn’t even look like me! I made a funny face, and I look like a cartoon.” Yeah, really, she found it amusing.
Have I mentioned that my daughter is the most awesome kindergartener in the world?