Yesterday I met my eldest baby, who is almost 17, at his high school. It was Senior Portrait day.
Upon arrival, I wrote the check and found my hands were shaking. I looked around the theater and saw we were the only ones there.
They invited me to come and watch. I immediately asked my son if it was okay. I didn't want to infringe or treat him as if he were a baby unable to handle this on his own.
When I had my Senior pictures done, my mother didn't come. In fact, I don't recall that any parents attended. We showed up and took pictures. In the dress. In the drape. With the rose. Without the rose. In the cap and gown. All done. See ya bye.
But when I asked my son, he replied, "Sure come on, Mom. It's fine."
The theater was silent. No one there except the photographers and us. They took him to the first station and began with the cap and gown photos. They set the background. Put his fake tie and shirt on and then cloaked him with his royal blue gown. He took his seat and they began snapping pictures. Look to the left. Look to the right. Lift your chin. Tilt your head.
I had a very conscious thought.
I am not upset. This is not so bad. I was relieved. I had been very worried that I would get emotional. After all, when I received his portrait card in the mail and saw the pictures of the models - I cried. I figured that seeing my own son would trigger something worse.
But I was okay.
They handed him his fake diploma and cap. Look over your shoulder. Turn to the light. Smile. Now don't smile.
A couple of times my son made eye contact with me. Rolling his eyes. Guys just don't get into the whole picture thing that girls do.
Then the photographer opened up his cap.
And put it on his head.
He was so handsome. But with the cap? He seemed so much older. Mature. Accomplished.
The tassel waved back and forth at his temple.
I'm not really sure how it happened but suddenly all of the air had been sucked out of that building in the blink of an eye.
I could not breathe. I felt like I couldn't swallow. The tears were filling in my eyes.
I needed to get control. I knew I would embarrass my son if he saw this reaction.
Just at that moment, I thought God had saved me.
Another very upbeat photographer sauntered into the room. She immediately drew attention to herself and I was so glad to have something else to focus on.
She began to speak to the other photographer,
"Make sure the tassel stops swinging before you take the picture."
As she spoke those words, she reached to turn on the radio there on the table beside me.
I was so happy for all of the distractions she was providing.
Then I heard the music---
--then the lyrics...
I thought - No way. This is not happening. As I stood there watching my eldest son in his cap and gown struggling to plug the dam, Stevie Nicks voice rang out.
"Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and
I'm getting older too..."
I could not even believe my ears. It was so movie like. It was the perfect soundtrack for that moment and all that I was feeling. Surreal.
I tried to focus on the other photographer and her busy work. I was desperate for a distraction.
The photographer asked my son and I to look at the pictures she had taken for approval. So I did what any nostalgic, emotional mother would do.
I closed my eyes.
I stood shoulder to shoulder with my son and pretended to look at the pictures.
Then I told he and the photographer they were wonderful.
When Son #1 went to change his clothes to move onto the next station, a third photographer appeared.
She was very hesitant to approach me and had a concerned look on her face. I was worried that my emotion was becoming too obvious.
In a very meek manner she asked, "Are you -- are you his Mom?"
I smiled and answer quickly, "I am."
She looked very relieved and exhaled with a large grin. Then she proceeded to tell me that when she walked up, she thought I was there to have my Senior pictures done. But when she looked at the card it had Son #1's name and clearly I was not a boy.
We had a good laugh about it. It was a fabulous distraction.
Son #2 returned and began taking his casual photos. They went quickly. I was able to enjoy those.
They put him on the floor and used a 2012 prop. I thought about all of the years I would take him to have his picture taken and all of the props used throughout the years. The teddy bear, the rocking horse, the ladder...
I realized this would be his final prop.
We reviewed the pictures in the camera when asked. It was interesting that the person captured in her camera, seemed so vastly different from my son. But there was no mistaking that was him.
Then it was time to move on to the third and final station.
They dressed him in his fake shirt and tie and then slipped the jacket over his shoulders. He sat upon the stool.
It was not a very emotional moment at all because he was in shorts and docksiders on the bottom half so it took away from the significance of the top half.
As he sat there taking his pictures, many things rushed through my mind.
I heard myself say out loud, "Where did that time go?"
The other two photographers were seated behind me and began to chat.
I told them that I could still close my eyes and remember my own Senior portrait session like it was yesterday.
They laughed. "Did you wear a drape?"
"Of course." (Did they think BACK IN THE DAY we wore something else?)
The photographer called me over to look at the photos in her camera. She explained that we would choose one of those for the yearbook.
Ah, yes. The Senior yearbook picture.
I call that THE FOREVER PICTURE.
That is the picture that everyone remembers when they think of you after you have all graduated and gone. When you recall memories, according to that picture is how you envision that person - no matter how old you are or how much time has passed.
That picture is forever.
Just like my brother's high school graduation picture has been forever on my bookshelf. He graduated college. He married. Seventeen years have passed.
But his FOREVER PICTURE in his tux still sits upon my bookshelf.
Then I remembered...
Exactly seventeen years ago I attended my brother's high school graduation.
I was 8 months pregnant.
Eight months pregnant with the gentleman that was now seated in the chair wearing the tux.
Capturing his FOREVER PICTURE.
"He made me suddenly realize that photographs could reach eternity through the moment." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson