Last Friday when Baby Bear came home from school, I found a wonderful surprise in his backpack: An envelope full of photos—an 8 x 10, a couple of 5 x 7’s, and assorted wallet sizes. It was his “spring portrait” package, just in time for Mother’s Day.
It’s a great photo, as photos of Baby Bear go. Because of his hyper nature, school portraits tend to be very hit-or-miss. We're lucky to get half his face in the shot.
I only wish I’d been told in advance what day the school was taking photos, so he wouldn’t be photographed wearing the same striped shirt he wore for last year’s portrait.
Already I could hear the comments from relatives.
FATHER: “What, you can’t afford to buy him a new shirt? Doesn’t your husband make enough money these days? Maybe you need to sell more books.”
MOTHER: “He should have had his hair cut before his picture was taken.” According to my late mother, anyone whose hair touched the eyebrows, covered the earlobe, and/or fell below the atlas of the spine, needed to be hauled into court so they could have their name legally changed to “Cousin Itt.”
MOTHER-IN-LAW (never to me, but always to Mr. Lucky): “Why is he wearing the same shirt as last year? Does Karen send him to school in the same shirt every day? Doesn’t she ever do laundry? Is she still writing?”
BROTHER (doesn’t matter whose or which): “Now which one of your kids is this again?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised by photos from Baby Bear’s school. I have one from a couple of years ago in which he’s beautifully posed against a lush, misty forest background. Yet he’s wearing a very casual dark blue-and-gray T-shirt. ARGH! Had I known in advance when they were going to shoot that photo, I would have dressed him in something infinitely more presentable that day.
I check his backpack every day for messages and notices. The school is simply not getting the word out, and Karen is annoyed.
These photos are sent to parents on a sort of honor system. “Select your photos – send in your payment – share with family and friends – then sit back and enjoy their snarky comments about your little darling's ill-chosen outfit!” (Well, okay, that last isn’t on there, but at least for my son’s school, it should be.) You pick the photos you want out of the selection offered, write a check to the company, then return it to the school along with whatever photos you don’t select. I’ve often wondered just how profitable this is for the company doing the photos.
Indeed, this year there was a letter enclosed with the photos, on school district letterhead and signed by the principal, stating, “Any picture debt will be placed on the debt list for the following 08/09 school year and student will be unable to attend the end of the year activities (6th, 7th, 8th grade special events).”
That tells me they’ve had a bit of trouble with their honor system in the past. Mr. Lucky is of the opinion that some of the middle school students, horrified by the braces and acne and overall gawkiness of puberty reflected in the photos, do not take the packages home to their unsuspecting parents, but trash them instead. I know I can’t bear to look at any photo of myself taken at that age.
Baby Bear is not a middle school student, but is enrolled in the “Exceptional Student Center” annexed to the middle school, which is comprised of special needs students of all ages.
On Monday I wrote a check for the photos, and sent it back to school in the envelope provided.
Today is Wednesday, and it’s still in his backpack.
And Karen is still very annoyed.