Monday, June 23, 2014
Today I am grateful for pictures. I don’t have too many pictures from when I was a kid. Film and development was expensive and I was the second kid so you know what that means. Mom was too busy wrangling my sister, the wringer washer, cooking every meal and doing all of the dishes by hand to think of picking up the camera. Today’s kids will never have that issue. They take selfies by the time they are two. Good for them!
I love taking pictures. Before digital I would use a whole role of film hoping to get one or two gems. If I had a really, really good camera I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. You just never know when that perfect moment will present itself.
When we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, we stayed at Le Meridian Hotel for three months before we found our house. It sounds great and it was. . .at first. . .then it got irritating. You always had to be “dressed” to go to a meal (ie/bra & makeup). If the four walls of your exclusive room (boo-hoo) started to close in on you and you took your book to the lobby, you had to be nice if someone walked past. I hate that. It’s hard 24/7. Staff walked past a lot. And I think Indonesian people smile in their sleep. I’m not that nice.
We were still at the hotel when the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) conference was held in Jakarta and a boat-load of dignitaries showed up at Le Meridian. Bill Clinton stayed at the Hilton, but we had the Prime Minister of Canada, and the leaders of Japan and Korea. It was exciting and fun, but annoying, too, to have all of that hoopla in my “house”. I wasn’t prepared for so much company.
I had been spending time at the gorgeous pool in the afternoons, just to unwind after my daily search for a house. Sounds rough, I know. But it wasn’t all roses. Imagine the hottest, most humid day you’ve ever experienced and then add 100% air pollution like you were sucking in the exhaust of a diesel truck, and the stench of garbage piled in neighborhoods where you are being shown houses. Add to that the frustration of language and flies everywhere.
Anyway, after my swim, I was sprawled out on a lawn chair, in the shade because I’d literally die in the sun, with my nose in a book, when I was jerked out of the story by a clamber of activity. Suddenly a hand was thrust in my face and a tall gentleman with a French accent said, “Hello, I’m Jean Chretien, from Canada. Glad to meet you.” I took one look at the entourage of walking cameras with the Prime Minister and said, “If those guys take a picture of me in a bathing suit they’re gonna take a swim!” He howled! Laughed for five minutes. Honest. True story. I never saw pictures so I guess they knew I meant it. Now I kinda wish I had a picture of that moment, fat thighs, floppy arms and all.
I think of that story every time a parent or grandparent hauls out their phone to take videos of their kids learning to swim. With me. In a swim suit. When I can get one of those little darlings to trust me and relax on their back, and I can let them go, show both of my hands, so they know they are doing it by themselves, we are all thrilled and the photo-cams are whirring. Then they fold like a taco and I yank them back to the surface and maybe that will be recorded for posterity, too. The point is, I’m going to be in the videos of these kid’s lives. . .in a swimming suit. Swell. I choke down my anxiety every time I see a phone come out. Then I get over it, realizing that no one cares what I look like. . .that my hair is a spiky mess, or my lipstick has worn off, or my arms flap like half-deflated floaties. All they care about is that I’m having success with an important right-of-passage. . .their kid is learning to swim.
I know people, mostly women, who refuse to have their picture taken. They don’t like their smile, their hair, their nose, their chin(s), their ears, but mostly their bodies. I don’t know, I’ve looked around and I have yet to see a perfect body. Anywhere. Everyone has something. It makes me sad when women refuse to have their picture taken for these senseless reasons. Where will you be recorded in the history of your children, your family, your grandchildren. . . your life? Trust me, long after you are gone, when your descendants look at your old photo albums or your on-line pictures, they are only going to be glad to see YOU and they won’t care if you had six chins, bushy eyebrows, a space between your teeth, or an extra 20, 80, 400 pounds. I’ve put together enough photo boards for funerals to know that is a pure fact!
So today I am grateful for pictures, good hair or bad hair, fat or thin, zits or no zits, wrinkles or blotches, no lipstick or lipstick on my teeth, thighs or flab, they all tell a story. My story. Your story. Now I just have to wait for the picture of me in my swim suit and the former Prime Minister of Canada to surface on Facebook. Swell.