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
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
My daughter’s face comes up on the screen.
She is beautiful even “unretouched”.
We scrutinize each picture—about eighty in all, comparing,
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.
We arrive at the farm; walk up the dusty path. We’re greeted
by the other workers on tonight’s shift.
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 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
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.
Labels: CSA, farming