Thursday, I had a grand old time having my picture taken with some of my most amazing young friends. Katie Stapely shot these pictures outside in glorious 60 degree weather and I’m not sure what was more fun…having my friends give me hugs, listening to their conversations with each other or watching them ham it up for the camera.
The fun started with Anna G., not to be confused with her best friend, Anna C. (and referred to by all who love them as G and C, just to simplify things). When she arrived at Merrimack Hall for her Project UP class, we tried to hijack her but she was much more interested in opening the birthday party invitation Zahra had handed her.
“Come outside with me, G,” I said. “I want us to get our picture taken.”
“Debra,” she said, standing with one hand on her hip and looking at me with disdain, “I got letter to read.”
“But G, the sun won’t be out much longer.”
“You can wait.”
The end. You can wait. Opening that invitation was much more important than taking pictures with me…the same invitation that all the other girls were holding in their hands and the same invitation that everyone had already read…aloud…twice.
“G, please come outside. Zahra told you what that letter says when she handed it to you…it’s the invitation to her 14th birthday party at The Matrix. You can look at it when we’re done, can’t you?”
So much for that!
“I go outside with you, Debra,” said C. “I take picture with you…if no one else will.”
I was starting to feel like a big loser.
“I read letter already.”
Sure, C would take a picture with me…she had already read the invitation!
Several moms were standing around and they helped corral several girls outside for the picture. We sat on a bench behind Merrimack Hall, with G sitting directly to my left…quite deliberately taking her time reading the invitation. When G says she’s going to do something, there’s not much that can stop her and she was determined to open that envelope and read her copy of the birthday invitation. Katie shot candids while we waited for G to finish reading and then waited for her to carefully return the invitation to its envelope and even more carefully insert the envelope into her purse. This took about 10 minutes but there’s no such thing as making G hurry.
Eventually, everyone got into the spirit of the photo shoot. The moms stood behind Katie, making sure everyone smiled, the girls were giggling as we arranged and rearranged ourselves and as more girls arrived for class, the group in the photo grew larger.
Robyn was the last to arrive and when we called her over to join in the photo shoot, she took one look at me and said,
“What happened to your hair?”
“Yeah,” answered Anna Ryane, “I was gonna tell you that your hair looks kind of weird!”
That’s when I knew I was a loser. Emma told me last week that I look younger when I wear my hair in a ponytail so, being the vain old woman that I am, I wore my hair in a ponytail for the pictures. I guess I got a little carried away with myself because the ponytail was sort of high on my head. Oh yeah, and I curled it with a curling iron. And I might have teased it up a little bit. I didn’t look younger, I just looked weird.
As we posed for the pictures, the girls talked about Zahra’s birthday party, about the medal Caroline won in the Special Olympics last weekend, about Eleanor’s social studies test. They smiled and laughed, hugged on me and on each other and squealed with delight when Katie showed us the images in her camera. They were excited to see their images in the camera and Laura Beth straight up said, “Hey, I look good!” Yes, girl, you did look good! And my hair did look ridiculous.
Bill and Zach were scheduled for the second photo shoot and we nabbed them before they entered the building, as it was getting darker. Kayla carpooled with Zach today, so she and Zach’s mom walked around back with us to watch the boys as they did their best hip-hop poses, flexed their muscles and made tough guy faces. We were almost out of daylight when Kayla, who had stood patiently with a grin on her face, asked,
“Take my picture?”
“Yes, Kayla, please take a picture with me,” I said.
Katie took a few shots and held out the camera so Kayla could see the image. It was a darling picture of her and when Kayla saw it, she looked closely at the camera and then looked up at Katie with a huge smile on her face.
“Yep,” she said. “That’s me!”
Katie and I laughed at Kayla’s comment but when I thought about it later, I got a lump in my throat. It seemed to me that Kayla was validating herself, that she was saying to herself, “I’m here and I matter.” Maybe I read too much into it – maybe she was just confirming that Katie had, in fact, captured an image of her. But it sounded like more than that to me…Kayla was proud of that image in the camera and is proud to be the girl who smiled back at her. Me and my vain self was looking at the images noticing my weird hair, my wrinkles, worrying about what others would see when they looked at the picture. Not Kayla – she was simply confirming out loud something that she knows in her heart – that she’s Kayla and she’s terrific, inside and out. I won’t look at a picture of myself the same way again.