They were set out in front of me, one by one.
I chewed my lower lip, contemplating.
What should I do?
I twisted my fingers together in my lap.
What should I do?
“Here are the prices.” The woman slid the paper over to me and I tried not to pass out. The lowest package started at $119. Was that the real price? I blinked, trying to will a better number to pop up. But no. There was $119 staring back up at me.
As well as the various photos of my children that the woman was hoping I’d purchase.
You see, awhile back I brought the kids in to take some antique-style photos. It was a thing a local church did and $10 would get you a 10X13 along with multiple other photos shot. I figured, okay, I could spare $10. It’s a church, and I like churches.
I glanced down at all the photos of my children. The ones of Natalie were easy to pass on because she looked baffled in most of them. The photographer had tried to get her to laugh and spouted out funny words and Natalie had frowned and probably thought, “Why isn’t this woman running into a wall?” Because that’s what I do to get her to laugh at home. The photographer had handed Natalie a silver tea set and implored Natalie to play with it so she could get a shot.
Natalie just gaped at the woman. She opened and closed the teapot before setting it down.
Tommy did a little better. He did not like the overalls they made him wear.
“These are not cool,” he kept whining, tugging on the straps. “These aren’t cool at all.”
When the photographer had plopped a newsboy cap on his head he balked. “What is this? I didn’t agree to this! We didn’t talk about this!”
“Just…wear it,” I begged him from the sidelines.
The photographer had handed him a fake fishing pole with a fake fish attached.
“What’s going on now?” Tommy complained, taking it.
In short, none of the photos wowed me. But it was awkward sitting there, as the woman waited. Would she think I was a terrible Mom if I turned down photos of my children? Oh God. Why wasn’t Tom here to help me? He has no qualms turning people down. He’d have stroked his chin, glanced at the pictures and had gone, “I’m not interested, thanks.” And because Tom looks like he could snap a person in two, the woman would have merely nodded and kept silent.
I stroked my chin, like Tom would, in what I hoped was a businesslike manner. I kept thinking, “How much longer should I sit here?” Should I just grab the 10X13 that I already paid for and go?
Across from me another woman was surveying the photos of her kid. Her son stood beside her, pointing out the ones he wanted.
“It’s just, we can’t afford them all, baby. They’re expensive.” The mom whispered the last word, so as not to offend anyone. But she told the truth. If you wanted all the photos they were over $300.
Then the kid actually started to sniffle.
“Don’t cry. It’s not like I don’t like them. It’s just...” The mom lowered her voice again. “..expensive.”
Wow. Would Natalie cry if I didn’t buy her photos? Tommy was thankfully at school but Natalie was....
...oh, she was spinning in circles beside me. She could care less.
“Weeee!” she bellowed, turning around. “Weeee! I’m dizzy!”
“Um,” I said, swallowing. Why couldn’t I say the words? Why? I wasn’t interested in the photos, thank you. It was simple. I just hate disappointing people.
Maybe I could get Natalie to say it? It would be cuter coming from a three-year-old with jelly smudged on her cheek.
I sighed. No. I had to do it on my own.
“I think,” I croaked, grabbing hold of the envelope that contained the 10X13. “I think I’ll just take this.”
The woman pursed her lips. I thought she might lecture me. Don’t you want pictures of your kids? You do know these are destroyed right? But no, she silently started gathering the photos up.
“Okay,” is all she said.
“Okay,” I repeated dumbly, standing. My heart did tug a bit as I saw her sticking all the photos in an envelope. The poor things, about to be destroyed because I didn’t want to fork over the money for them.
“Thank you,” I said, grabbing Natalie’s hand.
And then we left. As we stepped outside, I let out a deep breath. It was over. I had done it.
I pulled out the 10X13 and smiled.
“There’s me!” Natalie said, pointing at herself. “And I have a hat on!”
“Tommy has a hat on,” Natalie continued.
Ahh yes, the dreaded newsboy cap.
It was a decent photo of the two of them. I’ve tried to get a good photo of the two of them, but they usually argue. Tommy will say Natalie is breathing on him, Natalie will say Tommy poked her and it’ll just go downhill from there.
So I think it was $10 well spent.