I pack my suitcase for a three day trip. It’s my weekly routine to pack the night before, throwing in a sea of toiletries and undergarments, topped off by a clean uniform shirt for each day I am traveling. Serving drinks and meals on full flights from tiny beverage and meal carts is precarious at best, especially if there happens to be unexpected turbulence in route.
“Mom,” my daughter’s voice breaks my concentration, “it’s picture day tomorrow. Do you have to go to work?” Her concern is warranted. We didn’t want a repeat of picture day debacles that occurred coincidentally when I was out of working. My daughter and son had equally embarrassing past experiences and I turn from my packing to see them both standing behind me with concerned faces.
My daughter’s incident occurred her third grade year. Having forgotten about picture day, I went off to work without leaving specific instructions for my husband regarding picture-worthy outfits and hair styling tips. He always does his best to assist and does a passable job on “regular” school days. Picture day is not a “regular” school day though. The kids in our small Texas town pull out all of the stops with grooming and carefully choose only the coolest of outfits to wear. It is never good to stand out as “the kid that forgot about picture day”.
In third grade, my daughter had a new haircut with bangs. Bangs are not the best idea when you have inherited unmanageably curly locks so her barely groomed bangs were parted in the middle displaying a perfect pointed widow’s peak and then curled inward at cheek level, reminiscent of Dwight Schrute on “The Office”. Top that off with a three piece ensemble with plaid shorts, top and vest and you are creating the perfect scenario for being bullied. She survived the day but created blackmail worthy pictures we placed top and center in her scrapbook of school memories.
My son’s event spanned two years. The first year, he was in second grade and I set out a nice red shirt with shorts for him to wear before I left for my trip but my husband took him to the barbershop to get his hair cut the day before pictures and accidentally asked for a “GI” instead of the “high and tight” that was his usual style. The results were disastrous with his head shaved close but at least he wore stylish clothes.
I was working once again the following year, but remembered about pictures and called to remind them. My husband confidently said, “I’ve got this.” Everything seemed to go pretty well until pictures were sent home and my son was wearing the exact same outfit that he had worn in second grade. He looked exactly the same... except he had hair. These two photos are, of course, front and center in his school memories scrapbook.
Back to the present, I continue to look at my children’s concerned faces and I notice the car keys dangling from my daughter's hand. She is getting ready to drive to high school, only stopping to drop her brother at the junior high. They are so grown up. I am flattered that they think they still need my help on picture day. “You’ve got this,” I tell them with confidence.
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.