Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Family Photo

Growing up, there was one family photo.

With apologies to Parker, who came along MUCH later, it was the defining picture of our family - and kind of how I see the family unit in my head.

We took lots of pictures over the years, but there was only the one that represented the family unit.

The picture has a familiar layout.  Dad, standing tall behind the family (with a pretty luxurious moustache, as I recall).  Mom, just in front of him, to his left, with 1975 hairdo, perfectly coiffed.  Five-year-old Crorey, with uncharacteristically unmussed hair.  Almost-one-year-old Caroline, sitting on the stool, completing the picture with frilly dress and black patent leather shoes.

And a stain on the bottom of the left shoe.

Mom had won the photo.  Whether it was a drawing or a raffle, I don't know.  What I do know is that she had successfully resisted all of the up-sell that the photographer tried, all of the pressure he brought to bear, all of the reasons that she needed a portfolio of 30 wallet-sized photos and 27 8x10 color glossy photos (but with neither circles nor arrows).

She walked out of there with one large portrait.

The photographer got the last laugh, though.  There are thousands of ways that good darkroom work can take the imperfections out of pictures.  And instead of spending five seconds dodging that spot on the bottom of the shoe, he left the stain there.

There is something in the imperfection, though, that spoke to me.

We had gone through the process of preparing for the photo.  Hair was washed and combed.  Clothes were pressed and put on at the last minute.  Shoes were shined.  Inventory was taken.  Groundrules were laid down, and threats were made. All of the details were accounted for, and we were perfect for the photo.

Except for that one thing.  Nobody checked the BOTTOM of the baby's shoe.  Because what difference would that make?  Who looks at the bottom of the shoe?

Well, we all did.  For the next ten years, that photograph hung in a place of prominence in the home, as a memento of the family that we were. And in the very center of the picture was the flaw - the thing that I loved best about the picture.

Because that is what we all are.  Imperfect.  Five minutes after that picture was made, the cherub-faced five year old was zooming around the lobby of the studio, probably breaking something, or at the very least being threatened with a spanking when he got home. The dad, embarassed by the ruckus his son was making, was counting to ten to avoid losing his cool at the fortieth thing his son had broken that week.  The toddler was crying, and everybody was being herded into the car by a 28-year old mom who was just tired. 

The family as I remember it was full of love, but flawed in the ways that all families are flawed. 

In the picture, the family is perfection.

With one small reminder that all of God's creatures, even the unmussed, and the perfectly coiffed and the well wax-moustachioed among us - all of us are imperfect. 

And loved.


No comments: