As school children (and their parents) the world over know, the start of school coincides with that other rite of passage: the school picture; visual proof of a slightly artificial moment-in-time in our [children’s] young lives.
So when the Gort started Kindergarten, it was a no-brainer, a non-issue: school pictures would be taken and we would order them. Because that is what children and parents have been doing for, if not centuries, at least…decades.
But of course, it wasn’t that straightforward. Yes, the pictures were taken, yes, I may have bought a new shirt to commemorate the occasion and might have actually combed the boy’s hair, but there was no denying the end result was: strange.
First, there were the fake backgrounds. Exposed brick with cascading ivy? A Nemo-esque underwater scene? Or the Thomas Kincaid-esque dramatic sky with tree branch. All of them, awful.
And then there was the subject.
I take a lot of photos of my cherub(s) and have seen a range of expressions in said photographs, but every time I get the school picture proofs back, I am surprised by what I see. I may have, on occasion, blurted out: ‘that doesn’t even look like you.’
Because, dear school photographers, when you instruct a child to sit down on a stone bench and place his hands on his thighs, the end result will be awkward, to say the least. But no matter, even with the awkward facial expressions and the terrible backgrounds, I was drinking the school picture kool-aid. I returned the form and forked over the $18 and [the first couple of years] sent the grandparents a copy of the lovely photo. But then it was Grade 2, and when I got the proofs back, the Gort looked like the boy from Love Actually. The same puffy hair, the same sweet toothless smirk – none of it reminiscent of my then-seven year old.
So I rebelled and didn’t order the pictures. And it felt liberating until another mom said something like ‘wow, I wish I’d had the courage to do that.’
And then I felt like the only person on the planet who didn’t order school pictures and, courtesy of my impulsive act, the designated spot in the photo album would now be empty: Kindergarten, Grade 1, Blank.
So this year, I committed to purchasing the pictures. It was photo day, the Gort wore his favorite long-sleeved, button shirt and when I picked him up, I asked ‘how were school pictures?’ And he said ‘good’.
But when I got the proofs, I thought he looked more ‘startled bordering on fearful’ than ‘good’ in the first pose. And in the second pose, complete with hands on thighs, he looked like Lord Farquaad from Shrek.
A month later, he donned the same shirt and tried to strike a natural-fake pose again. A week later, he returned with the proofs. ‘How are they?’ I asked as he handed over the ordering sheet. ‘Well,’ he smiled, ‘I don’t think you’re going to like the bees.’
Had they seriously added a fake background of buzzing, ‘Barry’-like bees, I feared the worst. But then I looked at the sheet. He meant ‘the B’s’ as in B1, B2, B3, and B4 – all the same pose with different weird backgrounds.
There, on the stone bench, sat my Gort with his hands on his thighs, and – in what can only be described as ‘photoshopping gone bad’ or, ‘the case of the missing neck’ his head appeared to be levitating between his shoulders.
‘To order, or not to order,’ that is the question.
Photography Disclaimer: The image above is not my own, but I don’t want to embarrass the school photographer by revealing the name.
Parental Disclaimer: Yes, the Hen started Kindergarten and should have participated in this rite of passage but he was sick the first day and his teacher forgot to send him for retakes the second day. ‘Luckily’ there’s a third retake on Monday. Can’t wait!