It started innocently enough, with a few shots in between outfits, about four years ago at a Picture People in the mall. At my in laws’ insistence, we were gathered together to get pictures of a five month old Mary, this first time mom having missed the memo that digital prints weren’t enough, nay, the fact that my child had reached almost six months of age without being plunked before a canvas backdrop and photographed by strangers smacked of my ignorance and possible neglect of my precious firstborn.
Or something along those lines. I’m a little hazy on the details. I had not, however, missed the compulsion to dress my baby to the nines, so aside from her absolutely gorgeous christening gown, I had also chosen for Miss Mary to be photographed in a perfectly coordinated pink panda bear outfit from Gymboree. We had the little pink sweater hat, the body suit with collar detailing, the jeans with panda bears on the legs and, of course, a pink sweater with bears, white socks with detailing and little black patent leather shoes. She looked adorable.
So of course when the photographer brought out samples to show us (of course they were put into frames to show us just what we were missing if we went with the bargain packages), I was amazed that the best shots of my daughter were of her in just a diaper, her huge blue eyes peeking out from beneath some pink blanket the photographer had produced from a props bucket. She looked so sweet, so innocent, so perfectly chubby baby that I had to have that shot, and two like it, in a cherry frame, matted. And of course I had to have a framed photograph of Miss Mary in her christening gown, because that was the whole reason we were there anyway and what kind of mother doesn’t want her daughter’s first foray into Christian life memorialized? (Just when you think you don’t ‘do’ Mommy guilt, it turns out you just might. It’s insidious!)
Two years later, it was Anna’s turn. I’m sure I picked out a cute outfit for her to wear to her pictures but I can’t remember what it was. The best shots were the blanket shots again. Another frame on the wall, this time my skinny little brunette baby who couldn’t quite fully sit up well looking out at me with her sweet, serene expression. (Yes, the toddler I now lovingly call ‘honey badger’ was once extremely mellow. No, I can’t believe it, either.) Something about the simplicity of the shot, unencumbered by hats and bows and whatever else Gymboree had to go with the outfit, showed me Anna the way she was: Sweet, but with a look I couldn’t quite place in the eyes, a look we now know heralds a child covered in paint, or pudding, announcing “I killed a yeti.” (Oh yeah, that happened.)
So tomorrow it’s Lily’s turn. Lily, who is entirely like and unlike her sisters all at once, who seems to thrive on no sleep, who will wear the requisite white gown her sisters wore for the formal photographs her sisters already have. But it’s almost 10 p.m. and I haven’t picked out anything else for her to wear. I’ll bring a soft blanket and call it good, and two or three years from now, when she’s trying to read, or attempting to strangle the cat, or running down the hall with a bucket on her head screaming out lyrics to “Tangled,” I’ll look back at that simple shot and say, “Yep. That’s her.”