I love a good photograph.
Every couple years we dress everyone in matching shirts, like the people in those horrible stock photos you find in new photo frames. We head to the mall in Durham and pose for seemingly endless snapshots. And going into it you know you're going to get real high-quality pictures only if by the end you're close to tears from yelling at your kids to stay still, smile, sit up, don't kick your sister, and for God's sake stop untucking your shirt!
Not that the fidgetiness is the children's fault. After all, you're the one who booked a lunchtime studio session and forgot to pack any fishy crackers or YooHoos. If they've turned into whining little ankle biters it's only because they haven't eaten since 7:00am and their blood sugar levels have dipped well out of "cranky" and deep into "monstrous."
More often than not, the camera man or woman works some kind of magical charm and we end up taking home four hundred dollars worth of pictures of the very same people we see every day.
Not so tonight, however.
In a manner quite uncharacteristic to our frequently well-planned approach to life in general -- or I should say, my Lovely Wife's well-planned approach, since I am more like a clusterbomb of disorganization -- we didn't even begin coordinating our attire for our 4:50pm photo session until somewhere between 4:00pm and 4:10pm.
I should point out we were not driving the hour-and-a-half to Durham this time. The photo session was at our church in Southern Pines, just fifteen minutes away, and the ultimate goal of the session was to produce a single church-directory-worthy picture of our five-person clan. We accomplished that goal but it didn't stop the photographer from snap-happily clicking away another couple dozen times to try and produce that gem of a picture we wouldn't be able to help but buy fifty copies of for all of our relatives, living and deceased.
While we had a great time taking the pictures, once we sat down to view the results we immediately began tearing them apart.
"My left eye is closed," our Darling Daughter said about one.
"Why does he look like a possessed demon in half the pictures," I said of the Italian.
"My arms look so fat," my Lovely Wife complained. "Do I have my mother's arms?"
"Your arms are nothing, look at my big floppy ears!" I said. "Those things don't stop growing 'til you're dead!"
In some of the pictures it looked like the German was recovering from a stroke that left him able to smile with only half his face. In almost every picture I was smiling so hard you could see more gums than teeth. And there wasn't a single picture in which we all appeared comfortable. We looked more like the poster family for some new hemorrhoid cream.
But my favorite picture was the one with just me and my true love of eighteen years, my Lovely Wife. With me sitting and her standing with her arm around my back, it looked like I was her terminally ill husband and she was propping me out of my sickbed for one last shot to send the grandkids before throwing me in a pine box. Even the expression on my face suggested I might be dangerously close to needing a change of diaper or a fresh colostomy bag.
If nothing else, this round of photos proved I need to stand at least eight feet back from the rest of my family to appear in proportion with them. Either they are tiny people with tiny heads, or I am a lumbering oaf with a head the size of a prize pumpkin.
From now on, we'll leave the family portraits to the professionals -- the nineteen-year-old college kids who run the franchise shop at the mall.
© 2010 Mark Feggeler