I have bittersweet memories of Picture Day, which took place at the beginning of each school-year from kindergarten through twelfth grade. For starters, Picture Day was a reminder that summer was over and you had nine months of
prison classes ahead. You were expected to dress well for Picture Day, bring a comb to school with you, and order dozens of prints to mail to relatives.
The bright side of Picture Day was that all the photographs would end up in the yearbook, which you’d receive during the last week of courses. If you pined for a classmate but had been too shy to befriend him, the yearbook gave you a chance to finally see his school picture. You had the chance to laugh at goofy (or incredibly normal) pictures of the class bully who taunted you from September to May. You could play “Where’s Waldo?” by searching each page for your face. Perhaps the yearbook photographer had surreptitiously taken a picture of you while you were table topping a friend at recess one day. Or, if you’re like me, your seemingly-drunk-but-totally- sober-because-you’re-seventeen school dance action shots would be captured in the yearbook’s “School Dances” section.
But perhaps the most intriguing yearbook feature is the “Not Pictured” line at the bottom of each class page. I always wondered about the folks who, for whatever reason, didn’t make it to Picture Day. A lot of times, the students who weren’t pictured were prone to miss class, troubled, or perpetually a few steps behind the pack.
In many instances, the kids who didn’t partake in Picture Day were new to the school. That was the case with me in 1997, when I moved from smoggy Los Angeles to foggy northern California. I arrived in the bay area in October, long after Picture Day had taken place, so I missed out on the chance to have a fourth grade school pic. Considering my pageboy haircut, bangs, dark red locks, and freckled face, I was lucky to dodge Picture Day that year.
But I wasn’t off the hook so easily. Two weeks after I’d settled into my new home, my fourth grade teacher scheduled class Picture Day, meaning she and all her students were photographed on the bleachers outside.
I don’t want to accuse my parents of neglect, but they rarely took an interest my school life. For the most part, I resented this, especially since it meant I had to attend afterschool daycare five days a week, but now I’m beyond grateful that my mother worked full-time, had a life outside her children, avoided soccer and PTA moms, and wasn’t overly involved.
Even so, my parents didn’t make the effort to keep track of my academic calendar. When Picture Day rolled around, they didn’t curl my thin hair, force me to wear a velvet dress, or ask me to walk around in nice shoes for the day. In other words, they didn’t make me look presentable on the one day a year that it actually mattered. When my friends voiced complaints about my poor Picture Day grooming skills, my parents blamed me for forgetting to mentioned Picture Day beforehand, but I was still a child back then. I can barely dress myself now, so I was at a total loss at age nine.
I remember feeling a mix of fear and regret as I walked into class on class Picture Day, scanning the room for my new friend Crystal, who was wearing a white blouse, lavender skirt, and pair of heels. When she saw me, Crystal gasped and blinked numerous times, astounded. Even then, we had a special relationship in which we could simply look at each other and know exactly what was on the other person’s mind. As soon as our eyes met, I knew she thought I’d under-dressed for the occasion. I had on a K-Mart rainbow sweatshirt, which was covered in toothpaste remnants, green flowery Girl Scout leggings, and, you guessed it, tan K-Mart hiking boots, which I’d failed to tie for the photo.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to place me in the front row for the class picture, but that adult was unwise. Crystal still has our fourth grade class photo, which shows me sitting up front and center with my shoes undone, hair matted, and black socks tucked into my pants. On the bright side, I have exceptional posture in the picture, thanks to years of dance class and getting hassled by my east coast family members to sit up straight.
Now, fourteen years later, I missed the latest Picture Day held at my work. I was out all morning for an event, and by the time I got back to the office, the photographer was swamped with other tasks and couldn’t take any more staff pictures. I feel bad about making things difficult for others, but hopefully we’ll make time to do my headshot picture later this week.
Earlier today, I attended a Drug Courts rally on the Hill and had the chance to chat with Matthew Perry and Martin Sheen, who couldn’t have been warmer. He signed autographs for people, took pictures with fans, and hugged rally attendees. As I interviewed him, he put a hand on my shoulder and had the paternal, warm grandfather vibe. As we were crossing the street, he got nervous about vehicles possibly coming, gasped, and tugged my arm so I wouldn’t get hit. I laughed and assured him that the streets were blocked off and that cars couldn’t drive through our area.
That was fun. I have some more fun interviews coming up, so I’ll be sure to post my articles after they’re published.
Here are some links to recent pieces I’ve written:
New doll teaches young girls how to breastfeed
Former Nazi teen singers ‘pretty liberal now’
First World Problems: The stolen stroller epidemic
I received an odd email about my story about the former Nazi teeny boppers, and I’m not sure how to respond. The reader wrote to me, “I would be willing to be the nation knows no more about these 2 girls than you know about Hitler, WWII or why America if got involved in WWII?”
While we’re on the subject of hate mail, this one takes the top prize: “hahahahahahhaha. Ur so Lame, and Anderson Coopers piece on you was soooooo AWESOME! Laaaaaaame! Sergio from NYC”
As much as I love New York City, I’m better off avoiding a place home to residents like Sergio. Additionally, I’m worried about my sanity come October, when the east coast will cool down and stay that way until late April.
The winter months and I go to war with each other whenever we cross paths. I have no clue how I survived living in D.C. from November to May, but somehow I endured the biting cold weather, wind, icy ground, and gloom. The snow wasn’t so bad, yet I longed for sunshine for nearly six months. Night after night, I dreamed of the desert, sun, warmth, beaches, and cacti. To cheer up, I purchased a sun lamp, which proved to be useless. Nothing substitutes for the heat of the sun, which I’ll absorb for as long as I can. Come November…I honestly don’t know how I’ll cope and remain cheerful.
There’s light at the end of every tunnel, even during the upcoming dark winter. I become much more productive in the cold months, as I’m constantly frozen and incapable of engaging in outdoor activity. I’ve definitely taken it easy this summer, so maybe the slower pace is a reward for everything I accomplished at the beginning of the year. Either way, I’m always satisfied when I write, so hopefully the chilly winter will inspire me to produce more content. I have to find something positive out of the depressing months.