Does anyone else in your class still purchase these pictures??

Noah and I were assessing this year’s school photographs which were delivered to the students on Friday.  I had purchased Package D – the least money I could spend to get my hands on a single 5×7 to update the picture frame in my office.  It cost me $22 plus tax – and it came with two 3×5’s, four wallet sizes, and nine really small photos which I can only guess are for people who want to fit two pictures into a single sleeve in their wallet.

However, these people do not exist.

Because I don’t think anyone carries photos in their wallets anymore.  It wasn’t THAT long ago when I would respond to an inquiry about how my boys were doing by whipping out my trusty money holder and handing it over so people could view their growing faces through the smudgy plastic.  I wouldn’t do that today any faster than I would stop by a record store or watch the 6 o’clock news to get the weather report.

Because WE are an advanced society.

These days if someone asks me how my kids are, they wait patiently while I flip through the gallery on my phone, so that I can find just the right shot to share.

That’s not it…. Hold on… okay wait… I know it’s in here SOMEWHERE…  hang on…….

At some point during that search, I will find a 5 minute video of the school marching band, at which point I stop and treat the well-intended victim to some live action.  These are moments that mean so much to me – and simultaneously equate to minutes my companion will never get back.  I admire Lifetouch, the school portrait service, who is still fighting the good fight to keep our lives a little bit simpler by continuing to put our kids where they belong — in our wallets.

And, according to Noah, they are winning.

He responded to my question quickly and without thinking:  Of course the other kids purchase the photos.  This reality was confirmed by Chase who, a few hours later, dug out his own photos and shared them with me.  Yup – most people still get them, a fact that first relieved, and then fascinated me.  I certainly didn’t want my boys to lose any street cred in the mean halls of our suburban high school by being the only ones walking around with Package D all day.  For all I know, this parenting purchasing behavior could have stopped in elementary school and I never got the memo.  But the boys looked at me like this was a no-brainer which says to me that many parents continue to buy into this incredibly dated service, year after year.  And for what?

I get my 5×7 – and offer the 3×5’s and wallets to the grandparents, bringing the annual utility of Package D up to about 25%.  The rest of the photos remain in the crinkly envelope with the plastic viewing window, joining the other envelopes from past years in my storage closet.  The boys never touch them – or want them.  The physical “hard copy” of their faces cannot compete with their own strategically posed, well timed, and  online selfies which comprise their identities.  LifeTouch knows their market – and its certainly not the kids smiling at them awkwardly for the camera.

As I trimmed down my 5x7s on Sunday morning, I wondered why I (and others) buy into school pictures every year. Maybe it’s a generational thing that offers me a comforting tether to my own childhood.  Or perhaps it’s another guilt-induced, annual exercise in “it’s what good parents do.”  I do believe this credo plays heavily into the fact that I NEVER throw away the multitude of identical photos  living in my closet, because I might as well throw away MY OWN CHILDREN.

Actually, I think my “Lifetouch buy-in” is exactly as it sounds.  Life.  Touch.

Once a year, I purchase a touchstone from their lives. While I may be mildly frustrated by the unused mini-wallets, these photos guarantee a souvenir of my sons’ childhoods, presented in such a way that I can take in changes in their faces… and the evolution of their being.  Even the years when the quality of the portraits have something to be desired, it is still very much them smiling back at me, another year older but the same kid at the core.

Over the last decade, I have watched both my blond haired children grow into dark haired young men against varied colored backdrops donning different, collared “picture day” shirts.  Their faces have narrowed; their jaws have become more angled.  This year, I observed that Noah always chooses not to show his teeth when he smiles; his grin has been closed lipped since second grade.  Chase’s Adam’s Apple made its debut this year, or at least I noticed this time around.  Both boys chose to wear black without consulting one another, more out of fashion-sense than anything political or moody.

Another year gone by.  Another time stamp on the card of life.

The side-by-side 5×7 photos grace the desk in my office; the others are snipped and awaiting delivery to the grandparents.  The leftovers will live on, joining their younger siblings in the brown paper bag in the closet, only to be disposed of in the event of my death.  What felt like an antiquated service desperately trying to stay relevant in an age of digital over load suddenly feels like something I would miss terribly if it was discontinued.

Well played, Lifeouch.  Well played.


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