What's real not what's perfect.

 I used to hate this picture.   My mom loved it. I was in second grade when it was taken, but I remember it like it was yesterday. The hand-smocked blue dress scratched my neck and the sleeves dug into my armpits. I wanted to go outside and play soccer. The photographer was an overworked man whose job was to take pictures of elementary-school children in Utah. There are a lot of school children in Utah. When it came time for him to take my photo, I didn’t want to smile. The poor photographer was tired. He tried to coax me to grin. He said I looked beautiful. He tried to tell a joke. Finally, he pulled out a ratty, rust-colored stuffed animal with a missing eye. I smirked. Did he really think he could coerce me into smiling by showing me a tattered toy? He snapped the camera. I don’t think he cared what I looked like at that point. My last name started with “B.” He had a lot more photographs to take that morning. When the picture came home, I knew it was bad. I didn’t look pretty. I wasn’t smiling like a delightful little girl. I looked skeptical…cynical…not sweet or nice at all. My mom kept a framed version of this photo on her dresser. She passed away three years ago after journeying through the various cruel stages of Alzheimers.  I never had a chance to ask her why she loved this picture, but I think I know the answer now. This picture shows me as I am: a little skeptical, a little irreverent. I was never perfect like the other girls at school or church. My mom loved this picture for the very reason I hated it: it was the real me, not the version of me I wanted to project into the world.  This picture sits on my dresser now…and I love it.     

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