Monday, November 12, 2012

Smile for the camera

It’s time to take the annual Christmas card family photo. As parent of three teenage girls, normally something like this would require all kinds of planning and official notification of the portrait subjects. But I’ve figured out how to pave the way for family photo success.
It’s called a bribe.
Oh, don’t make a face. We moms have all done it. I prefer to think of it as an “incentive.”
I have a go-to spot for such photos: the local pumpkin patch. Yeah, I know, it’s been done to death. But it turns out there’s something about rusted farm machinery, hay bales and pumpkins that makes for an almost foolproof family photo setting. I’m nothing if not consistent.
But first my “incentive.”
Who wants In-n-Out burgers for dinner?, I called out one afternoon.
We’re going to take a family photo at the pumpkin patch and those who cooperate get hamburgers for dinner, I informed our three girls. They grumbled a bit, but at least all three of them got into the car.
Heading over to the patch, I reviewed the requirements for the hamburgers.
I need smiles, I told them. And everyone needs to look at the camera. No crazy eyes, I told one daughter who has a habit of going all googly-eyed when photographed.
Can we get pumpkins?, they asked.
Sheesh, my inner Grinch thought. Weren’t the hamburgers enough for them? And weren’t they a little old to be carving pumpkins?
But I didn’t want to lose the subjects before we even arrived at the patch. This deal could fall apart faster than you could say “Great Pumpkin.”
Fine, I said, but no pumpkin picking until after we take the photo.
At the patch, I herded them toward my favorite old tractor. Come on girls, I said. Don’t get distracted by the baby cows and pigs!, I called out as I stomped past. Photo first!
Everyone grab a pumpkin as a prop, I ordered when we got to the tractor. I knew I had to move fast. All it would take was someone spotting a spider or finding a scratchy bit of hay in a shoe, and all bets were off.
Look here, I said, trying to sound cheerful and commanding at the same time.
Looklooklooklooklook! Smile! Girls! Over here!
The sun is in my eyes, said one.
I’m not standing next to her, said another.
Can I have two hamburgers?, asked another.
I would have said yes to hamburgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner at that moment. The perfect family photo was in my sights.
Sure, I said brightly. Just look over here! Look at the camera!
And it happened. Three smiles. At the same time.
Click, click, click.
I think I got it, but let’s get a few more just in case, I said.
I looked at them again.
One daughter was now openly scowling. Another looked like she was going to drop her pumpkin on her sister’s foot. The third informed me she was now blind from the sun.
All right, we’re done, I said, and they scattered into the patch to pick out pumpkins to bring home.
I looked at my camera. If I got just one good one, I’d even throw in some french fries.

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