Formal photos have never been my idea of fun. Having to smile for a photographer telling me to say inane things like “Dad has stinky feet” only make me cringe. Next to me, my husband is wincing, his irritation obvious.
The result? Fake smiles.
But it was inevitable that the church directory would once again rear its ugly head. We’d suggested to my mom that the three of us have our photo taken together. That was really the best part of it. Well, that and the conversations that ensued while waiting for the shoot to begin.
Some of my favorite people were there, some coordinating the session, others waiting for their own photo.
One of them sat quietly in her wheelchair, waiting to be photographed with her husband. She was a white-haired vision in periwinkle. Long ago, Mary and I had worked together when she and her husband were trusted volunteers at the nonprofit retail store that I managed. Mary’s personal mix of kindness and humor made even my worst days manageable.
Sitting there in her wheelchair, looking down, she seemed not to sense the others around her, so I bent over, hugged her and told her she was as beautiful as ever. She looked up at me, smiled slightly and then I saw it. That twinkle in her eye. It was still there. Relief flooded my mind. She might not talk much, but she could still communicate with her eyes.
If she could sit through a canned photo session, then by golly, so could I. As Mary and her husband entered the temporary photo studio, I wondered how she would react to the photographer’s antics. Would she be willing to look at him? Would she understand his directions?
The protective part of me wanted to run in there and fill him in on her history…that she’d once been a music teacher. That she had a beautiful singing voice. That — even after years of marriage — she still laughed at her husband’s crazy jokes. That she wasn’t just a woman in a wheelchair. He needed to understand that this wasn’t just anyone and he needed to can his goofy phrases and instead give her the royal treatment that she so deserved.
But I didn’t say a word. I was pretty sure Mary didn’t need my help. After all, she had her Claude. And more than anyone, he would know how to engage her in their photo session. He probably whispered one of his silly jokes in her ear.
She in her periwinkle, he in his blue shirt…I’ll bet it turns out to be the perfect photo.