Dude wanted a family picture. I wanted one, too, only one taken in the backyard with the kids dressed in whatever they happened to be wearing, their hair messy and their shoes untied. You know, like how we really are, not as the magazines say we should be. It reminded me of the time someone came over right after I had cleaned the house and I told them, “This is what our house would look like if we didn’t live here.”
Likewise, Paul told his father after being ordered to comb his hair and put on some nice jeans--which would require a change from the shorts he had worn to school that day-- “Why take a picture looking like you don’t really look?” he asked. Why indeed?
So it went something like this: Dude got home from work expecting to find three boys perfectly coiffed and dressed, lined up at the door giddy to take a picture. Instead, he found three zombies glued to the Playstation, still wearing their school clothes. The sun was slipping down the sky, threatening to extinguish all hopes of the fall-colors-in-the-canyon picture that we had planned on. There were some caustic words exchanged between Dude and children, a few hostile glances toward me, which I interpreted as, “Why didn’t you get the kids ready before I got home?” There were a few doors slammed as hairbrushes were retrieved and hair combed to perfection, the sound of a few quick spirts of hairspray. I recall some mopey slogging back to the bedroom when dirty shorts and a t-shirt didn’t pass the Dude Review. There was some yelling, that much I remember. And a few mutterings of “What’s his problem?” and “[Insert any one of five family member’s name here] is acting like a jerk.”
By the time we arrived at the picture location, we did not find the sun peeking through yellow-leafed aspen trees as it had when we had scouted the place the day before, providing a touch of warm light around the head. The sun hung precariously close to the mountains like a yo-yo dangling from a string. "We're losing light!"Dude yelled. But, light or no light, I was not about to try again another day, and neither was anyone else, especially our oldest, who madly texted “This is soooooo stupid” to all of his friends. So we muddled through the best we knew how. Dude set up the camera, our offspring assembled themselves by a fence, and I pushed the self-timer button and ran to the family. This is what we got:
Shortly after, the sun fell behind the mountain and the moment was over. As we hiked back to the car, the stench of fresh horse manure hung like a storm cloud over the minivan. "Well, this has been a crappy evening," I said. And I meant it literally.
The moral of the story is, if you want a family picture, have the youngest color one for you. Nine times out of ten everyone will be smiling, no one’s eyes will be closed, and the sun will always be shining.