Possibly The Last Straw

Mom has scheduled us for a family portrait this week. It's a great step for her, gathering her nerve after all these years. I remember the last time Mom attempted this, 38 years ago. She still cringes when she recalls the rebellion.

It was after Sunday school and church in November of 1965.

My two older brothers and my dad were learning what a ray of unwelcome, loving sunshine my mom could be, at wildly inappropriate times like when they all wanted to sleep in. Myself, I was still a little bit sweet at that age. I might have even gotten up before her. In fact, I may have woke her up and dragged her out of bed in those days. (I couldn’t make the oatmeal myself, you know.) I was an Early-Riser, a let's get on with the fun boy.

Maybe that’s why people hated me. Hell, I was so cute it was probably my fault she was so insufferably euphoric all the time.

No, really. I was almost Hollywood adorable at the time.

This day was a day of rage. Every Sunday was, for years to come, but this day of the portrait was practically revolutionary in scope.

Sunday school, church, and then what?!!

Dad switched sides that fateful day.

Mom’s rosy disposition had produced this sneering, resentful and even hateful rebellion from D and J, and that surely convinced him about Original Sin and the sheer devilishness of his children. And so he became the angry enforcer of Mom’s will on Sunday mornings, for years to come, and he bossed us into our Sunday best and, for ever after, was willing to order us to smile too.
There were many botched photos. David and Jerry were livid and scowling, and then I started to bawl. We’d been there an hour (it seemed to me but I didn’t have a watch) and my fascination with the tripod lights, the camera, and the white screens was over. I remember my sweater getting itchy at my neck because of my tears rolling down there.

I probably knew that if I cried, and stopped, everyone would love me for stopping.

I just wanted to cause a hic-cough in this insane family’s bickering, see? That's it.

And when the photographer presented me with a white rubber ducky I stopped crying, and everyone including my brothers were cooing at me because they were so damn relieved I’d stopped making noise.

The lights flashed again and everyone of us was smiling broadly that time. Me with my eyes wet.

The portrait has been on the mantle for years, of course. It was an achievement.
A year later my angry, red-headed cherry-bomb sister was born. The significance of her birth ---to me---was that Mom might try to make us sit for a portrait again.
But Jane’s personality quickly developed into a sort of pre-stamped, ultimate rebellion to my mother’s happy idealism. It was like she arrived with all our spoiled personalities wrapped into one.

Jane was vain and loved to be photographed, but not with us. I don't blame her.

(Speaking of her vanity, she made a clumsy attempt to steal a dress she liked when she was three years old, grabbing it from a hanger and running out of the Carousel gift shop, the idiot. Like Mom wouldn’t catch her---, ha! ---and where was she going to run, anyway? Geez, Jane, you were only two foot tall. )
We’re all going to kick again this week, I know.

It will be amusing looking into Jerry and David’s rolling and rebellious eyes, the day of the portrait when Mom makes everyone get up early and put on a suit.

I’m going to be so well behaved. That’ll settle it , who’s the good kid.

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