It was either the great W.C. Fields, P.T. Barnum or my P.D.Q. father who once said, “Never work with children or animals.”
The same rule of thumb goes for photographing these groups, as last weekend’s church directory family portrait extravaganza proved.
I hadn’t remembered why my family had failed to schedule our picture for the last six years. Was it the expense? Maybe I didn’t receive the email? Or perhaps I just couldn’t locate all our kids on picture day. Two is an awful lot, you know. No longer could my husband and I use the excuse, “I don’t want to see our faces up on the walls.” Whatever the case, it had been long enough.
When showing our former church photo to prepare the kids for the impending event, our kindergartner asked where she was in the photo and why I was holding a newborn. I mentioned something about wild gypsies. The following details were nebulous.
Arriving at the church, we were greeted by familiar faces all aglow and primed for their close-ups. Some brought props. Others wore matching outfits. We showed up with everyone wearing underwear and a hairbrush in hand.
Only after a short wait, the door to the studio flew open and two highly energized, pint-sized fluff balls led their owners out on leashes. I did a quick scan to see if the dogs were wearing diapers, for occasionally I teach Sunday school in that room and I was imagining having to bring a tarp for the class to sit on. I’m kind of a planner.
The photographer followed, appearing moderately frazzled: she had disheveled hair, beads of perspiration across her brow and rapid, shallow breaths, which can be recognized only by sympathetic daycare workers and mothers of hyperactive children.
This artist with a view finder was keeping it together until she glanced down and noticed we had young children. A slight whimper came over her lips as she asked us to enter her studio.
“Wow…first dogs, then us! Are you going to survive?” I laughed, hoping to bring some levity to her morning. Apparently, she wasn’t capable of making that decision yet.
Since someone had secretly fed each of my children a 20-pound bag of sugar before our session, the kids were more wired than an 11 on a “Spinal Tap” amp. A better choice would have been warm milk and piped in Yanni music, but hindsight is irritating.
Imagine a black box theater combined with a jungle gym and you can begin to see into the minds of my spawned flying monkeys. The photographer repeated phrases like “jump up here” and “hop off the stool,” and my children understood her to say, “flop down on your stomachs and wrestle atop a black drape, precariously attached to a ceiling-high mounted stand.”
If during this session, trapeze bars and distant relatives in sequined unitards were lowered from above, I’m not sure I would have batted an eye.
Of course the photographer wanted to get as many good shots as possible, so her brisk energy fueled the furor. “Quick, climb onto this box. Then grab your mom with both arms and hug her tight around the neck with your face close to hers.” There wasn’t enough hairspray and coffee to keep this mama intact!
The good news is that no one got maimed or lost consciousness and everyone left with the same clothing they came in with. We even managed to choose a few photos that resembled us and are worthy of hanging on the wall.
And if college doesn’t work out for our girls, I am reassured they have a promising future in the circus.
Stacey Hatton is a pediatric registered nurse, writer and public speaker. Her humor blog can be found at http://nursemommylaughs.com.>