Family Portrait

Growing up, my family was always on a tight budget. My father was an Air Force man and we were all proud of him when he made recruiter. As part of the recruiting effort, the Air Force sent us to a local photographer to be photographed as a family; we’d show everyone what a happy Air Force family looked like. The real bonus was that we would receive our own large print.

My mom was thrilled at the prospect of having a real family portrait done. That morning, she fussed over our hair, curling and combing and hair spraying us. Even my brothers looked good. My mother of course was the real beauty. I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen her look so beautiful as she did that day, coming down the stairs shyly with my father, who was all decked out in his dress uniform. What a good looking family!

The mood lasted until we tried to get into the car. Four kids, two window seats. The boys started hitting each other in their quest for the window. “Stop it!” Dad yelled.

The studio was only a short distance away, but it was a hot day and the station wagon had no air conditioning. Now we argued about the windows. My sister and I had long hair and didn’t want it messed up by the wind; the boys were hot and wanted the windows down. “The windows stay up!” Mom snapped.

A long line of other families greeted us. We tried our best to be good, but it was a long wait. By the time they were ready for us, we were no longer ready for them. They assembled us into our positions and snap! That was it--one shot. We drove home tired and quiet.

When the portrait arrived weeks later, Mom sat at the kitchen table and opened it. “Oh, my gosh! We look like The Munsters!” The four of us kids scrambled to the table to see what she meant. It was true. Our faces were grim, our mouths straight lines. We stood stoically, especially my dad, who seemed to be arching his back and tilting up his head. Mom slipped the portrait back into its envelope. It was never displayed in our house.

As the years went by, we’d think about that photo. “Remember the monster picture?” we’d say to each other. “Yeah, where is it Mom?” We’d be laughing even before she returned with the print. “Look at Dad!” we’d squeal, pointing to his stiff posture and the strange way he held his head. “He was trying to look taller!” Mom would roar. We’d break up laughing, and laugh some more, staring at our own somber little freckle-faces. That unflattering, never-displayed portrait became a cherished, full-of-good-memories family keepsake.

13 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

This is funny, Danette! My family never had a proper portrait done, but it was probably just as well. Every group photo we ever had done was honestly cringe-worthy. And oh how I remember our non-air-conditioned station wagon and all the fights about whether the windows should be open or closed. Air-conditioning has taken all of the fun and adventure out of family travel, hasn't it?

Sheri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheri said...

Ooooo. I really hate typos so let me try this again...

Oh Danette! That was hysterical! You have such a way of telling a story. Hey! You must be a writer.
Speaking of being a writer... I wonder if you'd play a game? TAG! You're it! But this is not just ANY book meme. This is an OUR BOOK MEME meme. Visit my blog to get the details.

Can’t' wait to read your short excerpt...

Charles Gramlich said...

It's so cool you all can laugh about that now. Some families would carry that as a grudge for a long time. But laughter cures that. I can visualize the four kids and the hot car very easily

Billy said...

I love your mom's comments about the Munsters! Hilarious!

Brenda said...

What a great memory!

My family had a family portrait done once and only once...my dad wore the only nice shirt he had and dress slacks, my mom wore a formal gown, my sister wore a pretty little pink dress and I, too, had a dress on (because mom made me) and just before the picture was snapped, I blew a bubble with my bubble gum...

Everytime my mom wanted to make me feel guilty for something, she would get this picture out, stare at it...sighing...until I did what she wanted...usually all she wanted was for me to be more like a young lady and stop acting up by trying to be like the boys in the neighborhood...grin...

Susan Sandmore said...

Oh, dear--your poor mother! Great story, though!

courtney said...

Now THAT is a great memory. Definitely worth the experience, it sounds. :)

Ello said...

Awesome story! Now if only you could have posted the picture!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me laugh out loud!

Danette V.

Angela said...

Tag you're it!

BTW, Nice story:)

Travis Erwin said...

Great story. You really should scan the pic and post it for us to see.

ChristineEldin said...

Ditto everyone--what a fun story!! I was hoping (like Travis) to see the portrait! :-)
We never did that, and I've only done that once with my own family/children. We all look propped and stupid. I like the natural photos much better.