They were perfect. Tidy hair, clean faces, bright blue eyes. Smiling brightly, arms wrapped around each other – angels, princesses, cherubs.
I was faced with a table covered with large glossy pictures of the Blonde Bombshell and Miss Curly Mop. Each was more beautiful than the last. To purchase them would have required a second mortgage on the house.
Three weeks prior I had succumbed to my own vanity, when I was told from across the shopping centre ‘Mum, you have the most beautiful daughters, let us photograph them for you. It’s free…’
I had looked at the girls. For once they were nicely dressed, their clothes were not yet covered in food, their faces free from rogue boogers and vegemite smears. Their hair was neat and tidy. I had to admit, they did look pretty cute.
‘Ok,’ I told them. ‘But I only have five minutes.’
My plan was to take the ‘free’ photo (included with the sitting fee of $7 and to buy some $7 keyrings for Mothers Day. An investment of $28 and a few minutes. I knew how these places worked, suck you in with a free or cheap photo, then reveal the true price of the extra prints (in this case, they started at $85). I had no intention of spending up big on photos, and was secretly hoping that the Bombshell had pulled her ‘photo face’, thereby ruining any photo. I wished for a stray booger, crossed eyes, a spit bubble, anything to justify not buying the prints.
So as the kindly women began laying out the prints today, my heart just sank. They were beautiful. Individual and together, with sparkly silver headbands, and ridiculous berets, white background, dark background, big sister kissing her baby sister, their eyes closed and toothy smiles betraying how much they love each other.
‘I like this one’, the Bombshell told me, bending over to kiss a life size image of herself in a silver sequined headband.
In the end I had to buy one, the largest print available, of the two girls. Curly Mop is sitting in her big sister’s lap, their matching blue eyes mirror images in otherwise distinct faces.
‘What happens to the other ones?’ I asked the lady as she began stacking them in a neat pile.
‘They’re destroyed,’ she said.
‘I feel like I am throwing away my babies,’ I said to her as she bundled them away.
She looked at me strangely.
‘You still have the real things,’ she said.
I looked at Miss Curly Mopped strapped into the trolley, her hair sticking up in every direction, two slimy streams escaping her nose, mooshed up biscuit decorating her face, orange juice stains down her dress. Then I turned and looked at the Bombshell, still in her Kindy outfit, covered in some sort of paste, lunch and what looked like grass stains – and that was just her face.
She shoved the beautiful glossy photos of my beautiful glossy children in a half filled box of other people’s ideal children frozen in time, and I wheeled my very real, very grubby children* away with only a $95 dent on my credit card.
*not perfect but very loved