Monday, December 14, 2009

Suburbs of Our Discontent

“From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory”
--Shakespeare’s Sonnet #1

It’s December and that means the family holiday cards have started to roll in. This weekend, I spent a long time looking at one in particular: a beaming family of six in a forest clearing.

It was perhaps this picture that drove me to do something I’d never done before (and had no plans of ever doing): drag my family to “Portrait Simple,” the picture studio at the mall. We've never done a professional family photo, but now that my son contorts his face grotesquely every time he sees a camera, it seemed like a necessity.

Portrait Simple is sort of like Glamour Shots and Olan Mills in disguise as something tasteful. Their motto is also very persuasive: “We make forever, easy.” As a matter of fact, I DO want to make forever. And why not have it be easy? I grew up obsessed with families who sent out holiday cards, and now that I have my own, nothing—not birth, not death, not relocation—will stop me from sending them out every year.

I have to acknowledge that “Portrait Simple” was a desperate move, and the first reason is that I’m a big snob. This became clear to me when my son pointed to the window during the photo session and yelled “Look!” as if he saw someone we knew. My first reaction was to duck. Happily, he was just pointing to an ad for the next Harry Potter movie. The second reason is that my husband and I just had a talk about not spending money needlessly. His take on the photo session? Almost complete silence except for the words “This is your Hannukah present.”

Why has it come to this? Why don’t we have shots of all of us in our natural habitat? Pictures of the kids in Maine staring dreamily at some invisible point beyond the mountains? Or an artsy shot of bodies scrambling to get out of the icy water? Why can’t we be like the families featured in Gourmet magazine who sit together at farm tables and eat homemade gelato? Or at least a picture of us on the living room couch where no one is crying?

Because we just can’t, that’s why. I must pay dearly for my “forever,” even if it is easy. Shakespeare wrote poetry to be eternal, but that was only because Portrait Simple did not exist.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, this should generate enough Schadenfreude to soothe you temporarily:
    And on a more positive note: