The Familia Fetherlin has been in town this week for a heaping serving of hot, humid East Texas weather and new memories with Samuel and Titus. Since my globetrotting sister is only on US soil for three weeks before heading back to Southeast Asia, we decided that it would be a great time to take a family photo.
Several options were bandied about on Sunday evening and we finally settled on the idea of heading up to the finest studio in town: Wal-Mart. I’ve heard it said that when you’re desperate you’ll eat just about anything…and I suppose we were desperate. I wrote down the phone number and pledged to make the call as soon as the studio opened on Monday.
My expectations were extremely low based on the phone calls to reserve a photo session. It took several tries to even get someone on the other end of the phone line and when she picked up the phone I could hear a screaming child in the background. She sounded haggard and worn as she quickly stated her long winded spiel: “Thank you for calling PictureMe studios at WalMart on 4th Street, this is Lori, can we take your picture today?”
Poor Lori was already having a bad day, and I could only imagine what our crew of 7 would do to her fragile psyche. This was shaping up to be a disaster. Lori made it worse when she declared that the only time open that day was a 1:00 pm slot…smack dab in the middle of the boys feeding (Titus) and napping (Samuel). The problem with messing around with the boys schedule is that they always pay you back by messing around with your schedule later.
But again, we were desperate. “1:00 is perfect, Lori,” I muttered helplessly into the phone.
We didn’t have much time to prepare our beautiful selves for this photo shoot. To make matters worse, my family didn’t come to Texas anticipating the need for extreme color coordination. When Lover and I arrived at the Fetherlodge to round up the troops for our lunch break photo session, we noticed that we were sporting a hideously clashing kaleidoscope of colors. This was not acceptable, because when we take Fetherlin Family Photos we do it up right.
In the past, we’ve done FFPs featuring a carefully coordinated black and khaki theme. That FFP session ended with my sister Suzanne literally laying on my back as I laid in about a foot of snow in our front yard. Needless to say, we never invited that photog to snap our family again.
We’ve done an FFP with white shirts and jeans in the front yard. One year we had a red/denim/plaid themed FFP taken on a farm-like property. We’ve even done a well orchestrated blue/brown theme that featured our family (including Lover but pre-kids) putting our heads in a circle and taking a shot of us as we all lay on our backs.
These FFP sessions are just always awkward, though. We did an all red shirts Christmas FFP when I was about 10, and I managed to ruin every picture with a wild eyed smile. Those were the days when there was no digital display to check the quality of the picture…and we were using the self-timer to capture our smiling mugs. So I could get away with anything! But now, technology makes it so tough to mess around during family photos. Yet another reason to long for the good old days…
Snap back to reality…we’ve got very little time to get coordinated. Lover was literally THROWING clothing around the house to come up with items for my mom and sister. I convinced my dad to wear a hip, western themed pearl snap number that was WAY out of his normal comfort zone. Necklaces were callously tossed aside in favor of different baubles and we combed water into Samuel’s hair so that he would look semi-presentable. Incidentally, we settled on a “brownish/reddish” theme for the special occasion FFP.
We piled into the two cars to take us up to the studio and once there we walked across the bake oven asphalt parking lot and into the store. Our first order of business was to change Samuel’s diaper, so Lover scurried away to the disgusting Koala Bear changing station in the bathroom to freshen the little man. The rest of us nervously waited outside the tiny studio, not sure what to expect, but afraid of potential meltdowns from the boys (or me). I love looking at FFPs, but I really don’t enjoy the process of taking the pics.
Our photog, Lori, was finishing up with a customer when Lover got back, so all seven of us made our way into the approximately 8x8 foot studio. As she began to set up the background screen and prepare the seating for us, my mom was desperately trying to wipe the drool off Samuel’s chin before it hit his shirt. Her valiant efforts were encouraged by my dad as he offered up his best handkerchief for the dirty work.
And then it got awkward.
DID SAMUEL JUST POOP AGAIN?!
FOR THE LOVE!!!
A wry smile crossed the 2 year old’s face and one whiff of the tiny studio’s stale air confirmed the worst: a second dirty diaper in the span of about 5 minutes.
Since we were already crushed in the studio, and Lover was out front talking to Lori about the photo packages we would order, I decided that we had to get this diaper changed IMMEDIATELY.
On the table covered in greenish carpet that normally served as the seat for portrait subjects of all ages, my son’s diaper came off and the room filled with toxic fumes. As my sister Suzy supplied wipes, I took care of the diaper “insult” with several deft moves and got his shorts back on quickly.
And then Lori came back around the corner with Lover, who gave me a wide eyed look as she took a whiff of the foul odor. I gave her the subtle confirming nod and then tried to keep things moving along without addressing the obvious issue that was literally hanging in the air.
“Where do you want us, Lori?”
I’m sure you’ll agree, dear reader, that aside from Titus deciding to wear orange when we clearly said "brownish/red", this was another successful FFP.
I realized that at the end of the day, you can brush your hair and spit shine your faces, you can color coordinate perfectly and pose sublimely, and you can capture the PERFECT moment of joyous family interaction.
But the beauty of the family journey is actually the stuff that you can’t see in the picture.
I got to see my sister gamely take on her role as an aunt to our boys. One night she read Sam a stack of 15ish books before bed. She gave baths to the boys and fed Titus rice cereal and got it all over herself and Titus. She played in the backyard with Sam and laid on an air mattress while he did WWF dive bombs off the office chair onto her legs.
I got to see my Mom and Dad embrace their role as grandparents as they took Sam to the zoo on what must have been a 100 degree day. They gamely participated in a WILD 2nd birthday party for Samuel that featured more balloons and crazy children than our living room has ever seen. Dad worked with Samuel on his words and encouraged him as he learns to express himself. Mom carried Titus around for so long that her arms must have gotten sore.
We all laughed and played games and ate great meals and talked about the past year…the painful experiences and the joyful. The confusing and the confirming. We prayed and joked and asked questions and sat quietly watching the boys.
And when the three of them left earlier today to head home to Colorado, the house was strangely quiet. Sam woke up from his afternoon nap and excitedly said, “Nana! Papa! Sisi!” He explored the empty guest room with an inquisitive look on his face and I gently reminded him that we'll have visits with them again.
He grabbed some of his new birthday toys and started playing, then randomly shouted "DUCK!" at the top of his lungs.
Another perfect picture.