“Just don’t run on the playground today. You’ll break your ankles,” I heard someone’s elderly grandmother’s voice say only strangely, from my own lips.
Still, it was fair advice after sending my daughter off to school in new boots two sizes two big.
Thalia, we have to take them back and get a smaller size,” I said this morning as she cradled them in her arms. “I want you to be able to actually wear them this year.”
“But it will take too long!”
“It will take as much time as it takes to go to the counter.”
“But then I can’t wear them on picture day today. Oh please please please mom…I really want to keep them. Can I?”
“Tell me this. Honestly. If today were not picture day would you be asking to wear them?”
And so we came up with what I call the two-sock compromise, in which she would wear a double pair of socks. This also nipped a second challenge in the bud–her refusal to wear leggings or tights under her skirt on a 40-degree day because “it wouldn’t go with her outfit.”
It’s hard to fault her for that one; she’s my daughter.
School picture day is arguably one of the worst days of the school year for me. Tougher than parent-teacher night. Possibly even tougher than face-painting duty at the carnival, although not quite as traumatizing. At least I take comfort in the fact I’m not alone–all the schoolyard chatter this morning was about this kid insisting on wearing shorts, or that one refusing to wear anything but a stained t-shirt. Plus we were all running late. So there’s that.
I suggested to Sage that when she sits for her class class picture that she covers the milk stains on her dress (earned just this morning!) by putting her hands over them on her knees. Not holding my breath.
Let’s not even too far into the $650 photo package extortion that we are all forced to pay. (I do save $16 in refusing to retouch the photos at least.) Honestly, I don’t know one parent with a family that would require the acquisition of 42 wallet-size photos in the “family package.” Outside of Utah, of course.
I can count four, maybe five relatives tops who might feign interest to varying degrees. But unfortunately, there is no $12 option called “Just The Class Photo and A Couple Other Pictures Common Sense Package.” I may lobby for that next year.
In fact, checking off the package on that school photo form is one of those strange, surprising moments each year that makes me miss my grandmother terribly. Because I know that every school photo of every awkwardly smiling grandchild, stains and all, would be so proudly displayed on the refrigerator even as they accumulated year on end. When I think of running home with my own overpriced school picture package each year, the first one I used to cut out was always for Momsie.
I think of the chronology of school photos she’s missing; the gap-toothed smiles, the changing hairstyles, the sweet eyes that remain the same even while the rest of the photo starts to foreshadow the faces of young ladies leaving childhood behind. I think of how Momsie would ooh and ahh over each one. Shana punim! she’d exclaim over the phone. And then I can imagine the girls beaming with pride about a great-grandmother in whose mind they can do no wrong.
I can still picture my own grade school pictures hanging on her refrigerator with letter magnets and clips: The overalls. The hair in messy ponytails. The mismatched barrettes. The hand-me-down boys’ camp sweatshirt from a family friend’s son I had a crush on in sixth grade. I realize my mother gave in to a lot of wardrobe opinions herself; or at least she picked her battles.
So that’s what I kept in my head as I took a deep breath and sent my girls out into the 40-degree morning wearing no tights, imperfectly brushed hair, too-big shoes, double socks, and the biggest smiles ever knowing that I agreed to let them select the butt-ugly photo backgrounds of their choice. And that includes Sage’s maniacal insistence of the multi-colored background that looks like a rainbow vomited all over her 3×5 glossy. It should be banned.
I told her that in twenty years, she’ll complain, “Mom! How could you let me pick that stupid rainbow background!”
But then I realized that it–all of it–would just become part of the fabric of our own oral family history, and their own stories of class picture day memories.
Seems like a fair trade for too-big boots and goosebumps in mid-November.