For Pete’s sake, just say ‘Cheese!’



Last week I made an announcement that all but brought my family to its knees.

“I know what I want for my birthday,” I said with purpose. With some family members having forgotten a birthday or two in the past, this proclamation caused some to swallow hard, others to go pale and the dog to cover his head with his front paw.

“When is your birthday?” my husband of many years inquired with a shaky voice.

“Same day as it is every year,” I said without letting him off the hook, “and this year I want a family picture.”

Now you show me someone who doesn’t think a family picture is a good idea, and I’ll show you someone who didn’t spend the better part of a weekend last December chasing her family around with a camera as she implored, “For crying in the night, just look at me and smile.”

I begged those kids to pose where they stood, line up along the kitchen counter, or if they had to, just squeeze together on the couch.

They looked amazing as they left church. They all but glowed following a bout with the great outdoors. They stood and talked in a setting that was worthy of Norman Rockwell. But any time I pulled my camera from its pouch, the Kodak moment would fall apart faster than you could say “cheese.”

So there I sat, mid-December, with a small stack of photos to choose from that included two boys texting and another looking like he’d just sucked on a lemon. Then there were the blinking subjects, the infamous “donkey ears,” and heaven help me if more than two people were even looking at the camera at any given time.

With a stack of cards ready to send, I got desperate for a picture and all-out begged. “Ah, we’ll do it after we get back from the rec center,” they responded as they bounced a ball out the door. “Not now, we need to shower,” they said upon their return. “We can’t do it without Charlie; hey, where’s Charlie?”

When the last possible moment to get a picture taken arrived, I had hope. They were showered, they were presentable and every family member was accounted for. I propped the camera on a box and practiced shots in front of the mantel. I timed how fast it would take me to run to the setting, knocked down a spider web, and was giddy with joy that it was finally going to happen.

Sadly enough Vernon, our computersavvy son, had chosen that as the precise moment to educate his father on the simplicity of the Internet and somewhere between his explanation of bandwidth and bitmaps, I lost the rest of the group.

Darn near makes you wonder how a woman can keep all of her crackers in one box. So last week, with the Christmas picture fiasco still fresh in my mind, I looked at my family of men and firmly stated, “This won’t just be me chasing you people around with the Kodak either. No sir, I’m bringing out the big guns — we’re going to have our picture professionally done.”

Upon hearing that, something transformed in my young men and the group that has made picture taking miserable for me for the past 20-plus years seemed to like the idea.

“Let’s all wear black Hurley shirts and blue jeans,” one suggested.

“That’s been done to death,” replied another.

“How about we all wear formal shirts and ties — really dress up!” suggested Vernon.

“We’d look like a bunch of scoobs,” Lawrence responded.

Amid the great debate, we decided to meet the next day and do some serious shopping to come up with attire that would look both fashionable and pleasing to the eye. I was so encouraged by their enthusiasm for the event, I let them take charge and pick out what they liked.

I was nervous about the photo when they went with blue jeans. I wasn’t sure about the shoes they chose to wear, and needless to say I was uneasy when they went with various blue plaid shirts and exclaimed, “Yay, we’ll look all outdoors-like!”

Rough and rugged and manly. That’s the theme they went with.

They tried to force me into something reminiscent of Annie Oakley, but I held my ground and dressed in satin and enough rhinestones to choke a jeweler.

A family photo with this clan is nothing short of the impossible dream. Speaking of impossible, I wonder if my husband could upload them to the Internet.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at