Something in me does not know the difference between an AK47 and a camera lens. When I look up and see a metal box where a person’s face should be, I freeze. Vacate. It’s automatic. Others comment on it. Gee, your picture doesn’t look anything like you. You’re so much more vibrant and fun. When people look through photo albums they can’t find me. Is this one you? No kidding. How about this one? I wouldn’t have known. It’s because I’m not there. I don’t know where my spirit goes, but it’s definitely absent. It’s the firing squad effect.
That said, you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear I needed a photo for my website, the close-up kind that shows all the wrinkles. Vanity aside, I’d just as soon be scheduled for dental surgery. I was complaining loudly to my daughter, Kristen, who is a professional photographer, when she and her nine year old, Isabella, came for dinner. Kristen has pretty much had it with me because I make her job impossible. It’s only duty and the umbilical cord that keeps her from doing me in. I was getting ready to ask her anyway, when Isabella sprang into action. I’ll handle this Ma. (She calls me Ma, which means teacher in the Buddhist tradition and royal pain in the butt in the daughter tradition.) Isabella grabbed me off the couch and took me into the closet, decisively pulling clothes off the rack. Here, hold these, take this one, put that on. Next we headed for the bathroom so she could do a make-over, which is not easy with the handful of cosmetics I own. She sat me on the toilet while plastering my face with powder. She gobbed my lips in color, browned my eyelids, rosed up my cheeks, dripped black from my lashes, combed my hair and pronounced me done.
Let me back up. Before we girls met for dinner, we met at the Goodwill to see if there were any treasures among the grunge. Kristen and I found nothing, but Isabella walked away with roller skates – great roller skates, exactly her size, in perfect condition roller skates. She put them on as soon as her feet touched my hardwood floors, becoming a peripheral blur. Isabella was doing my make-over while gliding, spinning, and doing a trick called shooting the dog, no pun intended.
When I was deemed beautiful enough, we went next door to my neighbor’s house for a change of scene. Bella sat me down in the library next to the books, posed me at the Grandfather clock, moved to the bedroom which looked like I was drumming up business for a brothel, then finished with a meditation pose on a circular blue rug.
I was playing with her, with no expectation of result, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t get a picture. Having spent all nine of her years on photo shoots with her mom, the girl’s learned a few tricks, plus she doesn’t hate me yet for being impossible. She was gliding by, sitting on one skate while extending another in front of her, when I asked how much money she’d like for her time. She looked at the ceiling and decided five dollars would due nicely. I gave her a three dollar tip.