I looked at every picture a dozen times. Scrolled right then left, trying to find one that was more flattering, as my mother would say. “That dress is very flattering on you.”
I wanted a flattering picture but there wasn’t one in the bunch. We’d even had a professional photographer come and take pictures of all of us, my four children and their kids and loved ones. It was a tremendously rare event, all of us in one place, and, for once, I wanted it captured. I wanted us to be all together in a family picture, a nontraditional family in a traditional photograph that would hang on my wall until the movers came after the estate sale.
I thought I looked great that day. In the way that I always think I’m thinner and better looking than I actually am, I went to the park thinking I look pretty good, I feel great, these are going to be great pictures. We are all, my whole family, so ‘smart and good looking’ as my father would say. It was his ultimate compliment. Words to live by for me. I want, wanted nothing more than to be smart and good looking.
So when I saw the pictures of me and my husband, I was disappointed. Not only did reality not line up once again with my foolish mind’s eye, I seemed, for the first time, I seemed old.
Right away, I thought to myself, why couldn’t the photographer have taken a more flattering shot. Why couldn’t she have positioned me somehow so my deep wrinkles weren’t so obvious, couldn’t she have smoothed them somehow, made me look less worn, made the photograph match who I think I am?
Then I looked again and thought, looked.
This is who you are now, Jan. This is who you are. There isn’t a thought or worry or decision that didn’t leave its tracks on your face. The million times you laughed at your husband’s songs are there, too. The rebukes and returns of your children, the thousand raised eyebrows, none of it passed without leaving a trail. What did you think would come of all these years?
This is who you are now, Jan. Take a good picture so you remember.