Family Photo
Ryan. Age 13. Doylestown, PA

It was December 17th, 2008, in Lake Placid when the dreaded decision was announced: pictures for Christmas. As the cotton shirt, a red, white, and blue one, rubs on my chest like a plague, I think to myself, I’m always morose about picture taking. As I finish getting dressed, I surreptitiously tiptoe to the mirror to make sure I look OK and ready for the picture. Of course, like a bullet, my sister sees me and howls like a coyote in a cacophonous voice, “HA, Ryan’s looking in the mirror,” chanting on and on. I walk away in shame.

Suddenly, my mother tells us it is time to go. As we walk to the place by the pier, I start worrying. What if I screw this up? What if my lazy eye acts up and I screw up the to-be perfect picture. What if I get in trouble for doing something totally accidental? Am I a bad person? Head spinning, legs wobbling, I think I am going to faint.

“Ryan,” my mother asks, “are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” I say, maybe a little suspiciously.

My mother says in her sweet singsong voice, “OK, honey, stand right here between both of your sisters.” Great. I’m always in the middle because I am the youngest, which means I am the shortest. I want to desist, but I know that this is important to my mother. So I walk over step by step. Heart pounding, each step feeling like my heart beat is pounding harder and harder.

I squeeze in between both my sisters. My brain feels overloaded trying to process everything, including keeping my lazy eye from squinting. I squeeze my hands so hard it feels like they might explode. My legs start wobbling and I can’t feel my toes. As I can sense the picture coming, my sisters yell, “FUNNY FACE!” As the picture is shot, I swing my arms up making muscles while my sisters hang off the rail. My mother, even though it is important for this picture to be perfect, laughs with enjoyment.

“OK, OK, let’s stop acting like monkeys and take this shot,” she says hysterically. This is the moment I realize that this is important to my mother. Even though I don’t enjoy pictures, I know that this is important to her. As we line up to take the picture, I take my normal spot and my mother starts the countdown.





As I rip the itchy cotton shirt, a red, white, and blue one, off my chest, I look in the mirror. Even though I hate picture-taking, I realize that there are things my mother does that she doesn’t enjoy, but she does them anyways.

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