I let my daughter take my picture the other night. It was Halloween and our little Malcolm was making the traditional visit to the grandparents so we could oooh and aaah over his costume (he was Max, King of the Wild Things from the book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak) and gift him with useless tidbits that hopefully won’t promote tooth decay or turn into a million small pieces to be scattered about the house. I didn’t check my hair (it needed a good brushing . . . or taming . . .). I didn’t change my shirt (I was wearing flannel which always adds a few pounds in pictures . . . at least I can tell myself that). I didn’t stand up straight (I don’t know why not. That’s something I could easily have done . . . I just never think about it). My teeth weren’t shiny white because . . . well . . . coffee. All the coffee. And I didn’t hold my head up so my neck looked all wrinkly (which it probably should, given the length of time I’ve been around).
But I let my daughter take my picture the other night. Knowing it could very well end up on Facebook for the world to see (it did). Normally I would have hidden from the camera or at least made her sign a sworn statement promising not to show it to anyone else. Just hold it for my memorial video when I won’t be forced to look at myself. But I didn’t do that, either.
Whenever our family gathers, I’m usually the one behind the camera. There are two reasons for this. Number 1: I own the camera. Number 2: If I’m behind the camera I can’t be in front of it. Oh, there are plenty of pictures of everyone else in the family—that’s a nice fringe benefit of retaining photographic control. But because of that philosophy, very few pictures of me exist from the closing days of Miss Clara Hitt’s studio on Main Street until now (other than vintage school pictures, and we all know how those usually turned out).
I have recently realized this has to change.
Why? Because someday I won’t be here anymore. And my children will be left with memories (and an abundance of useless stuff) and that’s about it . . . and memories fade. The day will come when they’ll be looking for pictures of me but there won’t be any to find (other than the ones they thought they were sneaking . . .) because I selfishly hid from the one thing that could give those memories a boost.
The holiday season, strange as it may be, is upon us. There will be family gatherings (please be cautious) and celebrations (again, the caution thing) and someone running around trying to record it all for posterity. Be in those pictures. It won’t matter if you didn’t have a chance to brush your hair. It won’t matter if your clothes make you look fat or the position you’re in makes you look all wrinkly. Be in those pictures. You may hate it now and you may cringe when you see them later, but your children will thank you. Probably not today . . . probably not tomorrow . . . because they won’t understand the importance. But someday, when you’re no longer here, they’ll be glad you did.
I let my daughter take my picture the other night. And it really didn’t hurt. Much.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.