Thursday, February 5, 2009

School pictures

Ivan is having his school picture taken today. He's only in preschool, but the same photographers that contract with the elementary school contract with Ivan's as well. So I filled out the form a few days ago, wrote out the check, and delivered it to his teacher, thinking the whole time, "But Ron takes such great pictures. Why am I paying for this?"

My favorite school picture of myself is from fifth grade. I was a student at the G.O. Center in Lynchburg, Virginia--a program for supposedly gifted students (Gifted Opportunity). Here's what I recall from that gifted year: dodge ball, kick ball, Red Rover, kicking my teacher in the leg because he teased me once, my "boyfriend" calling me "gunky" after I broke up with him, a submarine my father helped me make as a project for 10,000 Leagues under the Sea, and a trip to DC, the group photo of which shows me in a pink t-shirt and sorely in need of a training bra I refused to wear.

In the school photo, I'm wearing a light blue turtleneck and a tan vest with flowered trim. As if the outfit weren't bad enough, there's the hair. The best thing I can say about it is that it was clean and not in the least bit gray. Years later--before I had children of my own--I asked my mom about it: "Why did you let me go to school looking like that?" Her answer? "Because you dressed yourself and once your kids start dressing themselves, you don't care what they wear."

"Not I," I thought. "No way will I let my kids leave the house looking like their mother doesn't care about them."


My favorite school photo of my younger brother, Sean, is from when he was in second grade. He's looking at the camera like he's ready to cry. But he wasn't. He said the photographer told him not to smile so he didn't.

My favorite school photo of my younger sister, Sarah, is from when she also was in second grade. Her hair is curly and cut close to her head in a style more closely approaching a mullet than an Annie-The-Sun'll-Come-Out-Tomorrow sort of 'do.

These 3 shots are the reason I love school pictures. They are completely about truth in advertising. Or at least, in the best cases, they should be. When I look at my fifth grade picture, I don't see the girl labelled as gifted. I see the tomboy I really was. When I look at Sean's picture, I don't see a well-behaved little boy, I see the child who had to be told not to smile because he was spazzing all over the place just a moment earlier, driving the photographer nuts. And when I see Sarah's picture, I see not the smiling child everyone else might, but the one who was crying only a few days before when her (supposedly) gifted older sister--who knew better--thought she needed a haircut, so took a pair of kitchen scissors to her long, curly locks.

When I look back at Ivan's preschool picture years from now, I'll see the little boy I managed to put a nice sweater on that morning, but I'll also see the faint red mustache from the two glasses of soda he drank with pizza the night before as he stood on his chair singing the theme song from "Happy Days."

And they are happy days. Very. Yep, thank goodness for school pictures. They're worth every penny.


rachel said...

Haha, I love that picture of you Bobbie- it is perfect. I would totally wear that vest. I bet Ivan will be so handsome in his preschool picture, red mustache and all!

Shankar said...

School photos are optional, aren't they? Because I only ever had one done, and that was quite enough.

And your pre-schooler is into "Happy Days"?! Heeeeyyyyyy...

mnmsalyer said...

You did WHAT to your teacher at the G.O. Center? Would that teacher have been my Uncle Eddie?? (He's the only male one I remember.) I suppose he may have deserved a good kick in the leg some days, now that I think about it. I wish he was still available for me to kick - or hug or talk & listen to or anything - now.

Compared to the other pictures that would have been in that particular grouping, I bet you were still one of the cutest! I never knew you did that to Sarah, but I could picture Sean exactly when you described his probable pre-picture behavior. :-)

The same things that make me cringe, sigh, or laugh when I see my kids' school pictures the day they bring them home are the very things I appreciate about them when I look at them later. I see the nights before and mornings of, then wonder at all the things my kids see and do in the hours they're away from me each day.

Bobbie said...

Yes, that was your uncle I kicked. I don't even recall what he was teasing me about; I just remember being mortified that I'd just kicked him. He was nice about it, though--just like he was nice about everything. He laughed, knowing I was already embarrassed enough by what I'd just done. My shame was my punishment.

If I were to ever home school my children, it would be so I could stop being jealous of all the hours they're away from me. I'm thrilled with how they're growing up, but I do feel those apron strings starting to thin out and I hate it.

Oh, and Shankar, Ivan has never seen an episode of "Happy Days," I'm afraid. He learned the song in school . . . I think to help him with the days of the week? I'm working on catching him and the other kids up on other favorite shows of mine from childhood, but we haven't hit "Happy Days" yet. And, yes, school photos are optional, but here in the States, you virtually never have kids opting out. It's a tradition or torture the parents enjoy.