some people grow into to adulthood. others just grow into their noses and ears.
my brother and i are a strange pairing. we are close but not the type of closeness you would assume. scarily similar, but functioning at total opposite frequencies. we remain baffled by our connection, yet adore being eachother's true confidant. my brother gets me. he is my duck walk and chin twin. together we enjoy your inappropriateness. we will talk about you for years if you give us what we want. turns out there was a 4 for 1 special the day god divvyed up the funny bones. i keep mine in my nose, while max tries to hide his in the tuggy part of his dumbo flaps. i think they're on to max.
this photo was taken on picture day at the k-8 private school we attended in tennessee. Teddy Bear Portraits was the portrait professionals who came to school each year, and set up shop in the library. not only were they known for lighting up little faces for generations, but also for handing out plastic harmonica sized sparkly pink and blue hair brushes - complete with logo. for some reason the hired teddy bear guy in charge of this teddy bear operation felt it would be a bear-ific idea for us to take a sibling portrait. and for some reason, 14 years later Teddy Bear Portraits kept the name - Teddy Bear Portraits.
so yeah, the Alinikoff school picture pose.
i had seen professional family photos in friends' houses. they were typically along the stretch of the staircase wall, or propped up on a special corner table next to a bronze bowl of red sparkly plastic apples. i remember there weren't just professional school photos, but family group shots as well - all matted, framed at Joann's, and hung so everyone could behold the progressive portraiture of polo shirts and pearls. after all, guests should have something to look at as they make their way to the upstairs game room.
family portraits typically involved matching outfits and the family dog or 4x4. individual closeups were diffused, black and white, and very serious. the girls had golden straight hair and knew how to work a mascara wand. fancy portraits typically involved a rope swing and plantation-esque background - sans the slave quarters. the less fancy ones were from jcpenny with a choice of blue or green background. those were fun too.
[not-so-side note: it should be known there will never be a better high school graduation picture taker than the great photo prophet himself, gary moor. in high school, gary always delivered the goods. click on the senior girls section, aka people i knew from high school. a couple years before senior year, i remember a specific incident where gary had to give up the fluffy white bed as a session location for the young female graduates. generations of disappointment. lock up the effing nyquil.]
i was particularly fascinated when parents hung massive picture frames enclosing 13 little wallet sized slots, one for each school year k - 12. i wrestled with how they remembered to put in each picture for 13 years, diligently preserving each grade as a landmark occasion. i was concerned for these families, all this time spent preserving new haircut and sweater day. how tragic if they ever had to make the difficult choice of what to grab in case of a house fire. oops, forgot the dog- but made sure to save Misti's 16x16 shrine of this-is-why-braces-and-acutane-were-a-great-idea.
back to my teddy bear nightmare.
before we got started, a teacher eyed one of the freebee brushes. knowing anything but a yard rake would be permanently lost in my nest, i assured myself , 'but this is the way i always look', and said no thank you to her suggestion. glancing at max's cabeza de cowlick, i noted his breathless silence of there's-only-so-much-a-young-boy-can-take, and opted to go no brush for him as well. just get it over with. at least the picture would be saved by max's new shirt. i on the other hand, wore a uniform of unfortunate circumstance and floral print schmatta. i more than likely chose it the night before, firmly pondering its duality. not only was it the perfect pajama shirt, but once again proved the myth true - flat chested frizzy haired girls do have more fun.
teddy bear camera man stood my brother and i next to each other. i was told to sit while max stood at my side. with the skills of a bob ross tutorial, he took my head in his hands and gently tilted it to the right, placed my brother's hand on my shoulder, and said 'theeeerree you go, juuuust like that'. everyone in the library watched.
i became fixated on the fact that this was all a exercise in vanity. we both knew these pictures would never be ordered, never framed, never sent out to family members or put on refrigerators or desks at the office. still to this day, the only picture i have ever seen my mother display at work is a frameless black and white 8x10 reproduction of a 60s james taylor. recently i asked her if she ever considered putting up pictures of her kids. she replied that yes, it was probably a good idea to frame a picture of cleo the dachshund.
blinded by the flash of our awkward inadequacy, the photoshoot commenced, and this picture is all that is left. the most endearing part isn't max's dopy look, but the detail of his left arm tucked behind his back, slightly peeking out from behind. he is respectfully keeping his distance from the situation as a whole. his cowlicks breaking our cover, my nose poking you in the face.