“Rob, it’s time to get up and get ready for school.”
“Mom, I think I’m sick,” I said, knowing all too well what day it was.
“No you’re not,” my mother replied patiently, entering my room to briefly feel my forehead and confirm her diagnosis. “You just don’t want to get your picture taken today.”
It was true: I hated school picture day, and everything about it. I hated having to smile for the sour photographer who seemed to hate his job. I hated having my hair combed and not being able to run around during recess because I’d mess it up! I hated the dress shoes that I was told I had to wear, even though our feet were not even in the photo. What was up with that?
Most of all though, I hated how dumb I always seemed to look in the photographs, and how my mom would send them around to all our family and friends. She even framed and hung up the last two school photos I took, both of which featured gummy expressions after I’d lost my so called baby teeth too early or something.
“Fine but if I get sick, I’m going to tell them you made me go to school!”
After a quick breakfast, which I ate sparingly in the hope that my lack of appetite would be noticed and earn me a reprieve, I had to put on an itchy blue shirt, a pair of stiff black pants, and sit still while my mom gave me a makeover.
“Why didn’t your dad take you to get your hair cut on Saturday? It’s too long.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t get my picture taken today?”
“Okay, if you mention the picture again, I’m going to have Christina wash your hair after school!”
There were few things that could coerce me into silence when I was a kid, and my older sister washing my hair was one such event. Three years older than me, she had long finger nails, and sadist that she was, she liked to use them way too much. Before Freddy Kruger there was my sister, and so for the sake of my scalp, my objections ceased.
Once at school, the morning proceeded as normal, but for the periodic announcements over the PA system telling each class when to proceed to the gymnasium for our photos. It was during picture day that my teacher, Mrs. Buccheri, decided to allow me to do the presentation I’d prepared on wasps.
The presentation itself had not been assigned; I just prepared it because after having been stung in class a couple of weeks earlier, I wanted to know why they sting. My research indicated that the wasp attack was entirely random and it had stung me because I’d accidentally squeezed it, but I knew the truth: the wasp was just nasty!
As the morning progressed, and recess approached, it became clearer and clearer that picture day was a grown up conspiracy that everyone was in on!
“Okay boys and girls, stay off the grass,” Mrs. Buccheri said. “It’s almost time for us to have our photos taken, and I don’t want to see any muddy kids.” My mother couldn’t have said it any better herself!
After ruining our morning recess, our time to make our way down to the gym came, and at that moment I really did feel sick. I realized that I had messed up my hair, so I brushed it over to the side with my hands, and with my classmates, assumed the required position, like a condemned man standing before a firing squad.
And then came the individual photo, and my breaking point. You see for the last two years, I’d smiled in spite of the absence of front teeth, and for two years I looked like a young old person! Christina had even taken to telling me I should go out for Halloween as Gummy Smurf!
So I decided no more monkey business: I’d make a statement my parents would never forget.
Several weeks after picture day, I was given the prints that my mother had ordered, and boy was she in for a shock.
“What did you do?” she asked after having taken one look at the cover print, and then glaring at me, her arms crossed. “Why did you do that?”
“I told you I didn’t want to take the picture.”
In horror my mother stared at the photos of me, smiling a dopey smile, with my eyes crossed, and my hair all messed up. Personally I thought it was an improvement over the last two years, but needless to say she would need more convincing.
“You’re taking these again!”
“And I’ll do that again.”
“If you do, you’ll be taking them again!”
“And I’ll do that again,” I replied, quickly nearing the threshold of my bravery. I could see this stalemate being solved with a threat to tell my dad that I was being saucy, which would invariably result in a grounding, and possible swat on the backside.
“Well then I guess I’ll walk you to school, and be there to see you retake the picture.”
Even then, I thought that was a masterstroke of strategy on her part. I couldn’t have my friends at school seeing my mom. I’d never live that down.
“Fine, I won’t do it again,” I conceded, hoping that she’d forget the photo retake dates, and I’d be off the hook.
She didn’t, and so ended my first rebellion: a colossal failure! Doubly so as every member of the family got two photos of me that year, neither of which was any good!
Robert Kish is an aspiring author who was born and raised in the Toronto area. When he's not writing, Robert also enjoys reading, seeing movies and photography.
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