Lithograph from Iolanthe, c. 1883 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thanks to Groupon we woke up and headed out the door at nine one morning this week to have the kids’ photos taken at the Seattle Arboretum. I momentarily contemplated having M and I join them in the pictures, but it was hairy enough getting the five of them ready.. and thanks to the two giant spots I woke up to recently, I would have had to spend a good three hours spackling my face to even approach acceptability.
Minutes before we left the house the baby ran into the toy-room and drew all over her face. While I was trying to determine what she had drawn with and how to remove it, as well as trying to figure out why despite all my efforts, Efram always manages to look as though he’s just woken up from a long night in a barn, Bennett came down in his Peyton Manning jersey: “This is how I want to be remembered,” he announced.
I tried explaining that a) I wasn’t planning on killing him today and there would therefore be other chances for him to be remembered, and b) it was pretty clear to all of us that there was no way in hell, try as we may, that we’d ever forget this current phase of his. In fact, he seems to ensure that all of his insanities are well-documented, even without the help of this blog. Every essay he’d written in school was similar in topic, all the artwork he had drawn for the past year and a half was eerily the same, the shrine he’d erected in the bedroom he shared was singular in its commitment. No, we’d all be remembering this Peyton Manning obsession for many years to come.
“But this is how I want to look.” he complained tearily.
“Darling boy,” I said. “Family pictures are not about how you want to look. They are about how I want you to look.”
He started to protest but I continued. “Allow me, for a brief thirty minutes, to pretend that I have five clean, pressed, un-crusty, snot-free, sportswear-free, sparkle-free, glitter-free, Disney-free children who wear the clothes I lay out for them. Allow me that sweet child, if nothing else. Now quit your bitching and put on the bloody shirt.”
I was feeling rather smug about the entire interaction until I was alone in the car later that day and heard the radio announcer mention that the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society is putting on a production of Iolanthe. I froze. You see, when I was about 13 years old someone got the brilliant idea that I ought to go to a musical theater camp. And even though the idea of singing and dancing in front of anything other than a mirror sent me into a clammy sweat, because I had a British upbringing, it probably did not occur to me to protest. So I went to this God-awful place, and had to take part in the camp’s production of Iolanthe, the Gilbert and Sullivan play about fairies. Unlike the camp director’s snotty daughter and her pack of girls, I was gangly and uncoordinated and not a day would go by when I wouldn’t stumble in our dance routine and trip up the entire “fairy ring.” It got so bad that one day when I was home “sick,” the camp director called and announced that she had marvelous news – they were adding a new role for me. Yes, the over-100 year old play would now feature a “clumsy fairy,” whose job it was to trip up the prancing perfection of that blessed fairy ring. Aha! Let’s make her incomprehensible clumsiness part of the play! I thought I might die that summer, and each time I hear that play mentioned I feel ill.
And I sat in my car, eating an entire bag of gummy cola bottles (please, a girl cannot process all of this without a little assistance), I wondered: Would this be Bennett’s Iolanthe? Would he always remember the day when I told him that I didn’t care what he wanted to wear for his family photo? That my desire to have the kids not look a ragtag bunch of escaped convicts trumped his own need for self-expression? I felt the guilt rise up and tighten at the back of my neck when an alarm rang on my phone. I did not know my phone even had an alarm. I picked it up and saw flashing on the screen: “BUG MOM!”
Hey Goldilocks, someone’s been messing with MY phone. That someone was about to get a big apology from “MOM” and just saw it drift out the car window.
BUG MOM. Ha! As if he needed a reminder….