It's picture day at school today which means that I asked my children to each bathe last night.
"We BOTH need to shower? Come on!"
Sadly what passes as clean for one does not translate to the other, no matter how close you are. Yes my dears, it's not much but I thought being clean might be a good start.
"Mom, they are not taking a picture of all of me, just my head. No one will know if my feet are dirty".
The joy of having raised logical and exceedingly bright children, their ability to poke holes in every sort of solid argument I put forth.
"Nor are they scratch and sniff photos, you will not be sharing any of your odors with your classmates for eternity, just yesterday and tomorrow, but today, you shower. Clean hair, clean faces, a good start to every day".
The water was turned on, the racing of children, completely naked, down the hall commenced, and, once soaked, the serenading (last night a mix of Train and Julie Andrews), began. Shower night was officially underway.
It's possible that the best thing that can be said about my fourth grade picture was that I was clean. My well scrubbed and freckled face appeared on top of a blue plaid blouse, one with a small ruffle near the top, one my mother loved. My mousy brown hair, cut just above my shoulders, was brushed before school and hung, as it always did, straight and shaggy around my head. This was as good as it was going to get, and then Someone Else's Mother appeared. She waved her plastic comb at my head, the same one she had used to tame the tresses of every child photographed before me.
"Oh dear, what have we here? Shall we try and flip it up? Or maybe comb it back this way, to feather it away from your little face?.
Lady, I'm nine. In a few short years everything you are saying is going to be intensely important to me but right now, I'm nine and my hair is straight and brown and clean. I'm pretty sure the eggs that stuck to my chin after breakfast were removed when my father scrubbed me with the belt of his trench coat and that my shirt, while pretty ugly, is crisp enough to be presentable. And that is how this is going to look for years to come, clean and crisp, but not feathered.
She smiled, I ducked, but the plastic comb with the disease laden teeth made their way to my head.
"Allyson, what happened to your hair?', weeks later, as my mother opened the envelope of pictures. There it was, the work of Someone Else's Mother, a large clump of hair sticking straight out from my left ear, somewhat feathered, completely ridiculous.
It used to be that the girls chose matching outfits for picture day, hoping to appear on Facebook twenty years from now, via a scanned yearbook photo, as twins. Last night Mary began pulling out dresses, offering choices for both that were coordinated if not matching.
"No, no, not that one, doesn't fit, hate that one, yuck, no, spilled toothpaste on it, really Mary?", said Kate.
"Can't I just wear jeans?", and the answer was yes, of course, as long as you wear something nice on top. Her Kansas City Royals t-shirt was deemed not nice, or not nice enough. She fussed her way through her entire wardrobe, finally deciding on a lovely navy dress with a simple collar, a perfect choice for picture day.
Of course all that fussing matters not at all when you find that a pre-bed shower means that you went to sleep with not entirely dry hair, resulting in what can best be described as Flock of Seagulls on one side, matted mess on the other.
"MOM!", wild laughter from the bathroom, as they both crowded in front of the mirror to get a glimpse of Kate's hair.
We squirted it with the water bottle, brushed it back and slid on a headband. No amount of feathering could repair this damage, it was the beautiful smile and clean face that was saving this school photo.
Several weeks from now, when the big envelopes come home, we'll see the results of wardrobe mania, flying hair, and yes, a bath. Several years from now we'll deal with concerns over hair styles, pimples, and clothing beyond what fits and is not covered in toothpaste. And I am certain I will long for the days when being clean was the biggest hurdle and comfort and coordination were the biggest goals.
Bedhead, a truly funny book about waking up with hair that finds it's own way, and of course, school pictures. By Margie Palatini, available here.