There are certain life’s experiences that are great equalizers. Death, giving birth (I figured this one out really quickly), leaving a restroom with your skirt tucked into your unders. There is also—elementary school picture day. A day when all children, regardless of circumstance, have the opportunity to look equally bad.
Take my niece, for example. Anyone that has met my sister’s children knows that they are (as she likes to say) really, really, ridiculously good looking. This particular niece has curly hair. Nice ringletty curly hair. The kind of curly hair that I, throughout much of my adolescence tried to achieve with bad perms and lots of mousse (that’s right- mousse… and hairspray.) It wasn’t good. Anyway, she’s got the curly hair and my sister, (who is meticulous about the grooming of her children) had it all cute and hippy-chic looking when she walked out the door on picture day. Unfortunately, before making it to the photographer, my niece met with an over zealous picture-helper-volunteer-mom armed with a black Goody comb who, (again unfortunately) was not acquainted with “hippy-chic” nor with what happens to curly hair when you comb it. She must’ve realized her mistake, and as a remedy to the frizzy mess perching a top my niece’s head, decided to tuck the whole mess behind her ears. Pretty.
A similar experience happened with my sister’s son last year (different sister). His picture-helper-volunteer-mom succeeded in combing his bangs straight down, flat against his forehead into a style vaguely resembling a blonde swim cap. My sister now writes on the picture order form “DO NOT COMB MY CHILD’S HAIR” in her own blood probably. I don’t know if she’s asked them to refrain from giving her sons their own black Goody combs though. (She has twins). Personally, I would love to see a picture of one of those kids after thirty minutes standing in line, crammed up against fifty other 1st grade boys also armed with hard plastic combs; each comb with a degree of bendyness perfect for flicking your neighbor in the back of the head, and teeth close enough together, that when turned just right, gets good and stuck in the bangs. That picture, my friends, would be a keeper.
Quite frankly, I like the elementary school pictures that go a little awry. Like when my sister (the one with the twins) accessorized her fancy picture dress with the handmade, multi-colored, wooden bead necklace that she snuck out of the house in her backpack. It’s one of my favorite images of her. It tells a lot more about who she was when she was as a child than if that picture had turned out “perfect”. Hopefully, the next time picture day at our school roles around, my kids will come up with something that, even if it’s not going to make it in the Holiday ad for Gap Kids, will at least make me laugh.