I smiled to myself when they told me of their plans. As a mother, I believe even grown children should learn by experience. I had to hang up the phone before spasms of laughter overtook me. My two daughters thought that taking all of their children to a professional photographer would make wonderful Christmas presents for the grandparents. Ideas are always best in their infancy.
On the hottest day of December in decades, the children were dressed in their winter finery and off we went to the Mall. One daughter’s three boys were all sick with low-grade temperatures and noses running like Niagara Falls. Endless nose-wiping with tissues on gentle skin resulted in red faces and grumpy dispositions. Makeup partially solved that problem. She is blessed with a good-natured five-year-old, a tyrannical terrible two-year-old and a one-year old with attitude.
Her sister has a nine-year-old, Nicky, already protesting the humiliation of posing with his “baby” cousins, and a daughter, Bailey, who at four believes that one cannot be too rich or beautifully dressed. Local clothing stores know her by name. The photograph studio is seasonally crowded with tykes of assorted ages running amok and babies wailing—not my choice of a fun day.
The temperature keeps rising as well as parents’ tempers while appointments typically run behind. One-year-old TJ takes a power nap, while his two-year-old brother, Brandon, makes several escape attempts, one almost successful. At long last, my family is called for their shoot. Nicky, still disgruntled, is itchy from his woolen Christmas suit, has broken out into livid hives, and announces that he may throw up. His sister, Bailey, the ‘Calvin Klein’ of the four-year-old set, insists that the tights she’s wearing are certainly not the ones she chose with her outfit, and begins to remove them, much to her brother’s chagrin and mother’s horror.
The wannabe, ‘Ansel Adams’, manages to get all five children lined up for the photo take. A smile seems permanently pasted on her face. Things begin to get scary. Brandon is sitting in the sleigh as the session begins. For reasons known only to her, she decides that this will not work and tries to remove Brandon form the sleigh. Did I mention Brandon has a bit of a temper? He screams so loudly that the security guards rush in like Marines on a mission. TJ begins to suck his thumb, a habit he’s never exhibited before, and Christopher, his older brother, slinks to the floor in an effort to appear invisible. Nicky tries to pretend that he is not with this family. Bailey has her hand on her hip, a glint in her eye and one foot pushed forward—never a good sign. Now the future photo genius snaps the shot!
The photographer is determined to complete her job. She lines everyone up again for some final takes. It seems to be going well, until she snaps the picture at the precise moment Brandon, who now refuses to sit in the sleigh on principle, catapults backward off the platform. There are more blood-curdling screams, but he’s unhurt since he is a very tough little boy. By now the other parents are quietly moving away from my family, some actually leaving the store. The photographer makes one last attempt to catch the children on film. She is, if nothing else, courageous. All the kids are in place at last. It is a bit much to hope for smiles from them, so she clicks away at the exact moment Brandon once more falls off the platform, leaving both legs sticking up in the air. The shoot is over.
My daughters are not happy with the shots but I find them spectacular. TJ has a startled ‘Oh’ on his mouth and it may take a while for him to recover from this experience. Christopher has a perpetual smile on his face, but it is rumored that he believes he was switched at birth. Nicky is disgusted by the entire event and Bailey is asking for a reshoot. All that can be seen of Brandon is his two legs sticking up—perhaps the best shot. My girls wanted to know how I ever photographed all six of my kids.
“Are you crazy”? I asked “I never took all of you out at once, except to church, until you went to school.” Some things must be learned, not taught. Meanwhile the picture with all the kids is a conversation piece, especially the kid showing only two legs.