The Photographer Cometh

The walls throughout our house are decorated with portraits of our family sitting together, smiling and serene. These photographs have the same dubious pedigree as snapshots of flying saucers--a more realistic picture would depict my daughters screaming at each other and my son spilling his milk.

News that a professional photographer was coming to our house for yet another installment in this documentary series of Happy Moments Which Never Really Happened did not seem to register with anyone until suddenly one Saturday morning my wife proclaimed that "the photographer will be here in less than two hours."

"What?" my older daughter demanded, outraged. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I did tell you. I wrote it on the calendar, and I mentioned it to you on Monday."

"Monday? How am I supposed to remember something from Monday?"

My younger daughter was also vexed. "I can't. I have to meet Lyndsey at the mall."

"You'll just have to cancel. This has been scheduled for a month."

"Cancel?!" my younger daughter gasped. You can't cancel a trip to the mall--to a teenage girl, that would be like canceling breathing.

"You'd better get ready," my wife warned them.

"Dad, could he get a picture of me jumping off the garage roof?" my son wanted to know.

I frowned. "You're not supposed to be ON the roof," I reminded him.

"Right, I said I would be jumping OFF," he agreed logically.

"How about instead we get a picture of you putting your bicycle IN the garage, like I asked you yesterday and the day before?"

He left, muttering. Meanwhile, my two daughters could be heard in the bathroom, playing bumper cars with their hips in front of the mirror.

"That's the blouse I want to wear!" my older daughter bellowed.

"But it's mine," my younger daughter protested.

"Yes but you said I could borrow it! You are so selfish!"

"That's my lipstick!"

"Yeah? Well, whose belt is that?"

"It's MY belt!"

"So?" My son was having a clothing crisis of his own, having been informed by his mother that he would have to find something not encrusted with food, dirt, or debris. His suggestion that he could just wear a T-shirt inside-out sounded reasonable to me, but was vetoed by the head of the Family Picture Committee. "Wear something with a collar," she instructed. My son and I gaped at her--don't T-shirts have a collar? What else would you call the thing around the neck?

"And would you please go into the bathroom and get your daughters to cooperate?" she snapped at me. Despite the word "please," this came off less as a request than a command. Grumbling, I stuck in my head in the bathroom doorway.

"Will you two finish up with the karate demonstration? The photographer will be here any second."

"I can't believe we have to share a bathroom," my older daughter seethed. "I can't wait until I move out and get my own apartment."

"I can't wait either," my younger daughter agreed.

Well, that made it unanimous.

Back in the living room, my wife was snarling at her own hair. Women can do this. When a man makes his hair angry, it leaves.

"Where is your son?" she demanded. Apparently I had sole legal custody of the children today. "He'd better not be getting dirty; those are his last clean pants."

I got the feeling from this message that if he were getting dirty, it would somehow be my fault, so I set out to find him. Stepping outdoors gave me escape from my daughters' shrieking, but it also put me in a position to witness my son's attempt to ride his bicycle over a small jump in the yard. Due to his adversarial relationship with gravity, he wound up crashing into a muddy hole, filthy water soaking every surface. Grinning, he gave me a thumbs up. "Did you see that awesome fall?" he called.

I pictured his mother's reaction when she saw what he had done to his last clean pants, and sighed. Maybe by the time the photographer got here, the only thing left to take a picture of would be our chalk outlines on the floor.

[ by W. Bruce Cameron © 2000, 2003 ( -- { used with permission } ]


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