Just Beneath


The senior portrait saga begins with a one-hour, fifty dollar (plus tax) photo shoot at the studio, a converted Victorian on a piece of property with lush gardens, brick sidewalks, and a beautiful front porch straight out of Country Living

Then four or so weeks later, we return to paradise to preview—and, more importantly order—graduation photos.  If we desire, we can also purchase a deck of playing cards… white boards… heck, we can probably even have life-sized posters of our daughter made up if we asked for it. 

We arrive precisely at eleven for our preview.  We press the intercom.  We are admitted.  


We step inside to the cool, crisp air.  In the foyer, framed pictures of graduates smile down at us from every wall. 

The salesperson ushers us into a sitting room; indicates an antique settee; offers coffee and tea.

We sit facing an 8 by 10 screen.  Frank Sinatra croons in the background.

My daughter’s face comes up on the screen.

She is beautiful even “unretouched”.

We scrutinize each picture—about eighty in all, comparing, narrowing, rejecting.

An hour later, we decide.

I withdraw my checkbook.  Pick the cheapest package.  But still, at nearly two hundred dollars, these pictures aren’t exactly cheap.

The salesperson is likely disappointed in our meager purchase: Many of her clients easily drop nearly a thousand dollars on senior pictures.  By choosing not to spend an exorbitant amount of money on photographs, I feel somehow less than.

We stand and gather our belongings.  We leave the air conditioning to step outside into the hot July air.

I leave paradise feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

Six hours later

We arrive at the farm; walk up the dusty path.  We’re greeted by the other workers on tonight’s shift.

Of course, we’re late. 

Nobody cares.

The farmer leads us to a front field.  She points out the bins, yellow and green, and shows us how to stack them.  She hands a bin to each of us.  She indicates her husband, sitting on the tractor.  “He’s just finishing the last row,” she said.  "The digger brings most of the potatoes to the surface.”

We look.  Five long rows of potatoes, white and purple. 

“Cool,” I say and my girls make fun of me; how impressed I am by all things farming.

“It is cool,” the farmer continues.  “But still, you need to dig down two to three inches to make sure you’ve got everything.”

Despite the fact that it’s six o’clock, the temperature is still in the nineties.  We take our yellow bins and make our way down the rows, picking up potatoes, digging, laughing, occasionally throwing damaged potatoes and even clods of dirt at each other.  When our bins are full, we lug them to the truck and pour them—gently—into the larger green bins and take a brief water break before returning to the field.

We are tired.

We are hot.

We are dripping with sweat.

Our legs and clothes and even our shoes are full of brown dirt.

And still, we gather potatoes.

My son’s friend finds a snakeskin.  My daughter unearths a bone.  And that’s when I realize what’s been bothering me all day: Senior portraits don’t let see you what's beneath the surface.  

After two hours, we've gathered several hundred pounds of potatoes. 

We stand, flex our backs, take pride in our accomplishments.

I smile at my children, each of them coated in a layer of dust.  

There's no telling what treasures you'll find if you're willing to look just beneath the surface.

This piece was linked up with Yeah, Write.
read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Just Beneath

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just Beneath


The senior portrait saga begins with a one-hour, fifty dollar (plus tax) photo shoot at the studio, a converted Victorian on a piece of property with lush gardens, brick sidewalks, and a beautiful front porch straight out of Country Living

Then four or so weeks later, we return to paradise to preview—and, more importantly order—graduation photos.  If we desire, we can also purchase a deck of playing cards… white boards… heck, we can probably even have life-sized posters of our daughter made up if we asked for it. 

We arrive precisely at eleven for our preview.  We press the intercom.  We are admitted.  


We step inside to the cool, crisp air.  In the foyer, framed pictures of graduates smile down at us from every wall. 

The salesperson ushers us into a sitting room; indicates an antique settee; offers coffee and tea.

We sit facing an 8 by 10 screen.  Frank Sinatra croons in the background.

My daughter’s face comes up on the screen.

She is beautiful even “unretouched”.

We scrutinize each picture—about eighty in all, comparing, narrowing, rejecting.

An hour later, we decide.

I withdraw my checkbook.  Pick the cheapest package.  But still, at nearly two hundred dollars, these pictures aren’t exactly cheap.

The salesperson is likely disappointed in our meager purchase: Many of her clients easily drop nearly a thousand dollars on senior pictures.  By choosing not to spend an exorbitant amount of money on photographs, I feel somehow less than.

We stand and gather our belongings.  We leave the air conditioning to step outside into the hot July air.

I leave paradise feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

Six hours later

We arrive at the farm; walk up the dusty path.  We’re greeted by the other workers on tonight’s shift.

Of course, we’re late. 

Nobody cares.

The farmer leads us to a front field.  She points out the bins, yellow and green, and shows us how to stack them.  She hands a bin to each of us.  She indicates her husband, sitting on the tractor.  “He’s just finishing the last row,” she said.  "The digger brings most of the potatoes to the surface.”

We look.  Five long rows of potatoes, white and purple. 

“Cool,” I say and my girls make fun of me; how impressed I am by all things farming.

“It is cool,” the farmer continues.  “But still, you need to dig down two to three inches to make sure you’ve got everything.”

Despite the fact that it’s six o’clock, the temperature is still in the nineties.  We take our yellow bins and make our way down the rows, picking up potatoes, digging, laughing, occasionally throwing damaged potatoes and even clods of dirt at each other.  When our bins are full, we lug them to the truck and pour them—gently—into the larger green bins and take a brief water break before returning to the field.

We are tired.

We are hot.

We are dripping with sweat.

Our legs and clothes and even our shoes are full of brown dirt.

And still, we gather potatoes.

My son’s friend finds a snakeskin.  My daughter unearths a bone.  And that’s when I realize what’s been bothering me all day: Senior portraits don’t let see you what's beneath the surface.  

After two hours, we've gathered several hundred pounds of potatoes. 

We stand, flex our backs, take pride in our accomplishments.

I smile at my children, each of them coated in a layer of dust.  

There's no telling what treasures you'll find if you're willing to look just beneath the surface.

This piece was linked up with Yeah, Write.
read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Labels: ,

8 Comments:

At July 19, 2012 at 10:13 AM , Anonymous From Tracie said...

Beautiful memories like this are worth more than any senior portrait. They tell the whole story of hearts, and love, and laughter, and family.

(I would have been way impressed by the cool farming, too!)

 
At July 20, 2012 at 6:54 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

Really a good story, a lesson, and the title is perfect.

 
At July 20, 2012 at 3:16 PM , Anonymous Heartfeltbalancehandmadelife said...

There's no way I'd spend more than $200 on Senior portraits either. Don't feel "less than". What a cool farm trip! what are you going to do with all of the potatoes? I would love to have purple ones!

 
At July 21, 2012 at 7:35 AM , Anonymous Wisper said...

Great story and a wonderful lesson!

 
At July 21, 2012 at 9:08 AM , Anonymous Stephanie B. said...

This is wonderful. I love the farm story. And the way you tied it into the one-dimensional photographs, that's a great segue. As an aside - I cannot imagine spending $1000 for senior photos - that's crazy. Even $200 seems above and beyond the call. But, made for a great story.

 
At July 22, 2012 at 7:42 AM , Anonymous Annabelle said...

Nice. The farm afternoon sounds great, and I would so have been the kid thrilled to find a snakeskin!

I am pretty sure I still have excess copies of my high school senior picture somewhere. Let's be real -- how many copies does any one person need?

 
At July 24, 2012 at 8:01 AM , Anonymous Erin Quinney said...

I didn't even have senior portraits taken and I don't regret it one bit. I prefer photographs of life. I hope you took some of your dusty children. That's the good stuff.

 
At July 26, 2012 at 3:06 AM , Anonymous jamie said...

Awww... what precious memories!

 

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