I don't usually do posts with pictures, but this one requires pictures to understand. It is the story of my life.
A year or so ago, my big one went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and walked out with the most beautiful picture of himself from the sketchbook picture machine.
See? Amazing. Beatific. Somehow the machine captured his fleeting angelic side which now has permanent residence on our refrigerator door where I sigh every time I put away the milk. Could I really be this blessed?
So this past December my friend scheduled her daughter's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and invited us. Immediately, I made up my mind to acquire more of these inspiring portraits, which also happen to be nearly instant at approximately two minutes from start to finish and reasonably priced at two tokens apiece.
So away we went. I instructed both boys to stop by the machine at some point during the party and to bring their pictures back to me. The big one immediately complied, and this is what I got.
Once again, it was gorgeous. My active, bouncing, perpetually noise-making son had been reduced for one breathtaking moment to the air of open-mouthed wonder and curiosity that generally fuels his frantically roving, weaving, diving, heaving body.
I reminded the little one about the machine.
He didn't want to waste his tokens there.
"Fine," I replied. "I'll use some of these." I snatched a few from a cup of extra tokens that my friend helpfully proffered. I motioned for the big one to follow.
When we reached the machine, I turned around and realized that only the big one had come. Fine. I wanted a picture with the big one, too, so the two of us posed together. Since he turned his body at the last minute, it was not as lovely as the big one by himself. Instead of the camera catching him with his mouth open in wonder, it caught him ready to snare a bug with his tongue.
Still, this version of the big one is also fairly accurate. So we added the picture to the pile and went in search of the little one. We caught him steering a pirate ship.
"My turn isn't up!" he protested, even though we could clearly see the "Continue?" countdown blazoned across the screen.
"Yes, it is!" the big one cried. "You are such a liar!"
"I am not! I want to play!"
"Tough noogies." I interrupted the two, grabbed the little one by the elbow, and steered him toward the machine.
"Can I be done?" called the big one now grasping the pirate ship's wheel himself.
"One more picture and you're done," I told him. Moaning loudly, he traipsed after us.
We arrived at the machine, and the big one dutifully sat down. The little one squirmed and attempted to twist his elbow from my grip. I forcibly plunked him on the seat next to his brother only to discover that the red "picture" oval that marks the camera's area of focus is too high for the little one when he's sitting down. When he's standing up, however, his forehead is cut off by the upper limits of the oval. I tried to adjust him to a knees-bent stance. Meanwhile, he tried to escape toward me. His escape was aided by his brother, who decided to use his head in the same way that a steer does during mating season. With great force, he pressed his skull against his brother, trying to force him out of the circle. I intervened, shoving my hipbone against the little one's head, preventing his escape and pushing the big one's head in the other direction with my right hand. With my left hand, I gripped my little one's left arm and attempted to keep him the right height for the camera to catch him.
Do you know how long two minutes can be with all of that going on? But the picture turned out okay.
If I hadn't told you, would you really have noticed my hip and right hand? I did manage to keep my left hand out. One of three is still better than none, right?
The picture dropped into the little receptacle, and the big one grabbed it out to check that he had really made it into the picture (as if the red oval was somehow lying) and promptly dropped it on the floor before racing off to play.
Now I may have neglected to mention something important. If there is something to be kicked, stepped on, or in any other way easily touched by foot, my little one will kick, step on, or otherwise touch it with his foot. So the instant that picture landed on the ground, all I could think of were footprints.
I immediately snatched it up, held it between my fingers to prevent wrinkling, and used that same hand to pin the little one to the back of the machine for his solo picture. The solo picture dropped into the receptacle, and without the big one there to remove it, stayed there. Without looking at it, I seized the little one by his waist, hauled him onto my lap, and deposited our last two tokens for the final picture. Despite his squirming and face-making, the picture didn't turn out half bad.
Who am I kidding? The computer even agrees with me. I've tried turning this picture in all the image editing software I have, and Blogger still won't upload it right. I'll never show that picture out in public. But it does live in my purse because I have no picture covers in my wallet and no pictures on my phone. No one has ever asked me to see a picture of my boys, but now I don't feel like such a bad mother. At least I carry their pictures with me now--even if they're not pictures I intend to show.
But now that the whole ordeal was over, I shuffled my picture with the little one to the back and looked at the little one's solo picture for the first time.
I had had no idea that my hand had made it into the shot. With the white background of the paper, you can easily see my fingers woven back and forth, although it's not at all clear why I've done it.
Sometimes a picture really does say it all.