Picture Day

Remember picture day in elementary school? Lined up alphabetically in the best clothes your mom dared to have you wear at recess? I remember hair neatly coiffed, cemented into place by a whole can of Aquanet, while the blue cloud backdrop seemed genuinely surreal in the story pit. And how about that poor frazzled soul using his photography degree to half-heartedly coax smiles out of 500 pre-adolescents? I'm sure he wanted to take my picture about as much as I wanted it taken.

And then there was the waiting, the anxiety. Would mom's 10 dollars be well spent? Did I blink again this year? Was I flush from playing in the chill October air? Did someone give me a noogie at lunch that unearthed that unruly cowlick?

It takes weeks to know the answer, and on that fateful day I'm presented with a waxy envelope of glossies in assorted sizes. I sneak peaks throughout the day, wondering if mom will be pleased, and maybe trade a few wallet sized with friends. The rest, though, are carefully secreted away in my backpack, which I clutch tightly on the bus ride home.

Finally, the moment comes when mom gets to see the return on her investment. At this, she usually sighs, "John ... Why'd you make that face?

My answer, "What face? That's my face!"

You know the only thing worse than picture day?

Picture retake day.