Yes, he’s mine.
For days, the boys had been plotting a photo session. They’d picked out and pressed coordinating shirts and jeans. They’d debated the use of hats and who would wear what color. And they’d requested my assistance in selecting a location.
Feeling a bit under the weather – which had become all to common this December – I finally agreed to their shoot. We bundled up, fighting the deceptively cold air that contradicted the reported temperatures.
The boys shed their coats and stood awkwardly next to each other waiting for direction. And it took a bit of coaxing to get each into positions that looked comfortable. It took longer, still, to persuade them to “think warm” and relax tensed faces.
There were only a few shots of each of my guys, but I think their personalities are really featured. JD looks apprehensive – as though uncertain of his purpose in posing and unfamiliar with the camera. It’s no wonder, as I rarely get to capture him in pictures. Rico looks like he’s working on his “smooth operator” status. And Ya? Well, he’s showing his usual defiant, “I don’t want to be here” look.
Yes, these are my three gents.
This was one I’d like to be done with. The concerns about Santa – would he come, was behavior suitable, does he have what I really want (but didn’t tell a soul about)? – were looming. I have it from good authority that only those who truly believe in the magic of St. Nick receive. Those who have doubt are met without, thus confirming suspicions that he might not be.
The boys tried to eliminate all surprise, snooping through closets and trunks for gift previews. Their actions made hubs and I question the way we do Christmas.
We shared a meager gift exchange. Most received necessities: clothes and shoes. Some received creative gifts, though JD was hardly impressed by his graphic model maker. Ri and Ya seemed to be satisfied with their musical presents. In fact, Ri sampled her drums right after hubs put the set together (and risked rousing the entire household of siblings pretending unsuccessfully to be asleep).
It took some coaxing to get Ri to tear open her other gift – a terribly chatty Firby that doesn’t like to sleep. Ya immediately dropped his pick in his guitar and spent several complaining minutes shaking it out. Uncle Art tuned it later, and then (after a lengthy sick nap), my boy became a strummer.
Rico was most obviously disappointed, and spent the day sulking. There was little appeasement for his sour mood. Chi flaunted new boots to Oma’s house, where mom’n’dad served a feast of favorites. I think, though,Chi’s day peaked when each of us opened her carefully selected gifts she’d bought with her own money. She thought about each personality she shopped for and selected well.
It might’ve been nice to extend our gifting, as the unwrapping was akin to a Gone In Sixty Seconds heist. Nevertheless, our Christmas was spent together and both love and illness abounded.
We’re early. Too early.
In the room marked Salon One, we find an empty space next to a pillar. Chi looks around at all the girls. Many are flipping long, touseled locks about their shoulders. Hairspray clouds encircle heads while stylists stand ready with curling, crimping, and flattening irons. Girls blink as false eyelashes are glued to already made up faces. Power dust billows. One child complains quietly, unsure of the addition. “Go big or go home,” a mother snaps.
Another girl practices her walk along the patterned carpet. Mom stands, hand on hips, a few feet away. “No. When you hit the end, pose like this.” The child huffs, starts over.
Several print starlets waltz into the room, instantly drawing looks of admiration, and of disdain. They seem oblivious to the recognition, searching out friends they see at events and shoots they’re often booked together for. These have become their confidants of childhood in the midst of their jobs as young models. In rare breaks between hair and makeup, they find corners away from adults and whisper privately, play hand games, and fiddle with electronic diversion.
Most of these child models ignore the fuss created around them. Moms grow frustrated, cutting their eyes at other’s children and pushing their own forward for touch ups. In the stylists’ chairs, tots rock, fidget, and kick with unspent energy.
As the lineups begin, one or two littles begin to pout, boredom and exhaust evident. One clings to her mom, rubbing her freshly teased hair with abandon against her parent’s arm. Another whimpers about a bathroom emergency.
Some moms snap photos with their cells, others use SLR cameras.. Those with instant connection to WiFi update their models’ fan pages. The live and times of these little stars is important news.
And here we sit, holding up a pillar and watching in awe. People pass by constantly, not even a wayward glance or hello. I check the time -mere minutes elsewhere a posing from the last look – and Chi sits close beside me, wringing her hands. “Should I get dressed, or something?” She asks as I toy with her baby for yet again. She is nervous, and, I sense, feeling as much out of place as I do. And we wait. Wait for acknowledgement, wait for a cue, wait to feel a sense of belonging that doesn’t seem forthcoming.
It’s an obligation if you’re in my family: you must take an annual photo. Call it preserving the changes in life, if you must. This year, though, we just could not coordinate fresh hair cuts, 100 percent attendance, and outfits before the temperature dropped.
Our remote seems to have reached its end, so we had to resort to the timer. Once the button is pushed, the runner (aka MOM) must get to the designated empty spot in the family formation before the time’s up. Otherwise, the missing member is seen in a 9-part photo series as a blur moving behind the others who are likely watching her harried efforts instead of looking at the camera.
Ri was particularly funny about the camera. She watched the blinking light speed up as the time ended and said “uh oh.” The result? Every photo has her in some mid-utterance with her hands raised in concern. One burst has the eldest with his tongue sticking out. Ironically, every one else is perfectly posed and picture-ready. Well, that’s not exactly true. Out of shape runner that I am, I look like a frazzled mess with half my hair blowing in the wind, my face flushed, and a pose not quite right somewhere in the middle of the bunch. And seeing that I’m the same height standing as my son and husband kneeling, there’s an oddity about the pictures.
It probably didn’t help that it was cold. And the sun? Well, she played peekaboo behind the clouds and created squinting eyes and odd-shaped shadows whenever she appeared.
As I’ve known for some time, hubs has a picture time clock. If needed pictures aren’t captured in, say, 20 minutes, he declares the effort a wash and goes on to other activities. He does it with Ri when she refuses to give me the perfect shot during a booking session, and he did it with our family photos. I suppose the others would quit, too – – if I’d let them do so without repercussion.
Alas, we ultimately got the shot, though it’s hardly the one I dreamed about. Here we are, the Smiths.
A swift breeze brings the thousand little hairs to life. They dance around her neck, undulating to a rhythm no one can hear. She walks with a purposed stride up the sidewalk as traffic whips past her. Bracing from the sudden shock of cold, she shudders and rolls her shoulders. Inside her long coat, she looks quite stocky. Her shopping bags droop with the weight of their contents, each sack seemingly filled to capacity. Her sneakers look weathered beneath her loose hanging jeans. Her knit hat seems barely able to withstand another season, as yarn slips loose and waves in the winds of traffic. She too, with her dark leathery skin, has the look of years passing. She shows no sign of slowing, even as the cross walk light blinks its red hand to hault her progression.