Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Picture This

I have been organizing The Princess' official pictures – school, dance and sports – in a last-minute attempt to prepare for graduation. Nothing like a hard deadline to make you take a look around and ask “Crap, where has the time gone?”

By extension, I've been sorting The Little Prince's photos as well, because my usual style of photo organization is to slip the envelope full of pictures into whichever tote marked “scrapbook” is nearest the storeroom door. This is after the envelope sits atop the bookshelf for six months, or until the next set of pictures comes home.

Regardless of where they were stashed, or how long (or if) they were displayed, each portrait stirs memories – the haircuts, the clothes, the braces, the glasses. The Princess' reviews of these photos have ranged from laughter to indignation – “Why did you cut my hair that way? Why did you make me wear that?” As if I had any control over anything picture-related after she started school.

The Little Prince has, as usual, taken everything in stride. Each time his sister runs down the hall waving one of his pictures in the air and laughing, he shrugs, grins and rolls his eyes.

He is suffering from Second Child Photo Deficiency Syndrome, combined with a healthy dose of Digital Technology Affliction. Where as The Princess has a ginormous tote full of baby pictures (along with 10 completed scrapbook pages... ok, maybe only five... ish), The Little Prince has only one medium tote. Half-full. And an empty scrapbook.

I console myself with the thought (unverified) that all his childhood pictures are safely stored on a flash drive or SD card. Somewhere. I hope. I have three years before he graduates, so I'm sure I'll come up with something by then. Somehow. I hope.

The official school and team pictures capture the essence of different children than the candid shots that eat up space on my phone. I sigh and roll my eyes – where'd I learn that? – every time I try to take a “serious” picture of them. It seems impossible to get them to hold still and stand next to each other (within arms length, as if they possibly know and/or like each other, but without employing a sleeper hold). Getting them to both smile at the same time, with neither of them caught mid-blink, is … impossible-er.

And yet, when I look at those snapshots of my two teenagers happily hanging upside down on the playground, my heart fills to overflowing. I hear them shouting and laughing and urging me to “hurry up and take the picture already,” their faces reddening as the blood rushes to their heads.

I look at the picture of them trying to squeeze into the kiddie swings and I remember all the playgrounds we've visited. All the slides and swings and teeter-totters and climbing walls. All the ways they used to scare me as they explored their independence. I remember rushing around behind them, arms outstretched, ready to catch them or give them a boost or to applaud (nervously) when they reached the apex and turned around, so excited and proud.

When I organize the official portraits, I hear a different voice. I remember a different type of dread and pride. As I study the familiar-unfamiliar faces captured in these photos I remember sliding each picture from its packaging. I marveled over the changes brought about by another year. So serious. So mature.

So grown up.

Now I look at the portrait of the second grader missing all his front teeth, or the apple-cheeked fifth grader with her new glasses, and I think how young, how long ago.

I compare those pictures to the lanky freshman towering over me, to the brown-eyed beauty in the senior pictures.

Again I think, “They are so grown up.”

And yet I hope, I know, I make plans, to take them to as many playgrounds as possible. I will take the pictures that capture the laughter, and the love, and the fears, and the pride.

And I will save them on the computer and print them out and store them in boxes and paste them in scrapbooks, and share them, and keep them close.

Where has the time gone?


  1. Lovely trip down memory lane. Good luck these last few weeks of the school year.

  2. My fave pics are the ones that are not posed or staged and I love that your kids refuse to be serious. It really does go by in a blink.