Life · Time Machine

Picture Perfect

I came home from picture day in the fall of 1981, and my mother said, “Did you comb your hair before your pictures?”

“Oh no,” I said, all first-grade innocence, “It didn’t need it!”

Mom groaned.


The pictures came back the way she predicted. If they did retakes then, she didn’t bother with them, and I’m glad. I like it all – the barrettes clipped high on my forehead and bangs coming out anyway, the crooked part, and what I thought of as my cowgirl shirt.

I remember that shirt, though if I’m being absolute honest I don’t know whether I remember it on its own or because it’s immortalized in my West Hill yearbook. Years later, my city-dwelling freshman-year roommate would tell me that she thought I’d show up to the dorm with Garth Brooks posters, dirty boots, and one of those funny country shirts. When I got done laughing, I remembered this beauty, but I kept it to myself. I’m confessing now, Annie: I did have a cowgirl shirt.

The next year, it was clear my mother hadn’t forgotten the incident.


I have no doubt that I cried as she braided my hair that morning. It’s always been thick and slightly unruly, and to achieve the slicked-back look we have here must have involved copious amounts of yanking and Dippity-Do.

That outfit I absolutely remember. Even though it was a jumper and I had to wear tights with it (looses, my brother called them, because they never stayed up), I loved it. The dark blue material was a tight corduroy, and I could run my fingers over the surface all day long. It was like having a stuffed animal, but without the social ruin.

No one knows what happened to my other braid in that picture, which just goes to show. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare and how you’ve learned your lessons from the past. There are some things you just cannot control. Best to let go.

And, for the love of all that is holy, stop trying to make everything perfect in the pictures, because the ones you will love twenty years from now are the ones that show you laughing out loud, even with the double chin.

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