Photographer assumes we all have kids

The young photographer was bent on selling me a package of photos. I kept saying no. I was only getting my picture taken so that my face would appear in the new church directory. I had no need for an expensive package of 8x10s and 5x7s. Never mind that I was horrified at how I looked in the photos. So wrinkly, my smile so fake, the poses so unnatural.

“Don’t you want to give them to your children and grandchildren?” asked this 20-something fellow with the dark ponytail.

“I don’t have any,” I said.

He sat back, his eyes wide. “Oh!” he said.

Apparently it never occurred to him that someone my age might not have oodles of offspring. If my pictures had turned out well, I might have bought some to use as author photos for my books and blogs. The photographer probably never realized I did anything besides mothering.

It’s one of those things people who are not in our situation don’t think about.

I don’t get my photo taken very often. I’m alone a lot. Not a single picture of me was shot at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Most of the pictures I post on Facebook are selfies—and I’m terrible at them.

Once my own church picture was done, I took over at the hostess table, signing people in. My friend Georgia, who has a bunch of offspring, didn’t buy any pictures either. She didn’t like how she looked. On the other hand, a couple from our choir bought lots of pictures to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Some folks brought their whole families, including kids and dogs.

Between arrivals, I had lots of time look around. One of the photographer’s flyers said: “Seniors: Don’t forget photographs for your children and grandchildren.”

Ahem.

I picked the least obnoxious shots for the church directory, pulled off my scarf and my earrings and thanked God it was over.

Ages ago, when my youngest stepson had just moved in with us, my husband’s job offered a family photo deal, so we dressed up and posed in the spotlight. The photographer kept calling me “Mom.” None of my stepchildren called me that. I barely knew the child who was now living with us, and I was really hurting over the fact that I might never have children of my own. I finally told him to knock it off. My name was Sue, not Mom.

We looked good in the photos, but “Mom” looked slightly annoyed. The guy probably called all the women Mom so he wouldn’t have to learn their names. He didn’t know how much that word can sting for those of us who want children and don’t have them.

What are your childless photo experiences?

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Thank you for your wonderful responses to my questions in last week’s post about what you’d like to see here. Most want stories about people who have overcome their grief and led happy lives without children. I will be on the lookout for those. Keep the comments and suggestions coming.

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I’m preparing to publish my next book, Up Beaver Creek, a novel set here on the Oregon coast. PD, the main character, is childless. After her husband dies, she is starting over with a new name, a new look, and a new location. Things keep going wrong, but she is determined to keep trying. Then the tsunami comes. You can read an excerpt here. 

I am looking for “beta readers,” people who are willing to read the book and answer a questionnaire about it to help me find any loose ends I need to fix. If you are interested, click here to fill out a form to get the process started.

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We childless do not have to end up alone


We’re taking photos this week for our church directory. I volunteered yesterday afternoon to check people in. That gave me a front row seat to watch people getting their pictures taken.
In past directories, I have always been painfully aware of my lone face sticking out among the family pictures. Some were just couples, but others had so many kids crammed into the shot that they barely fit in the little square.
This year’s directory will be no different, except for one thing. I am much more aware of the individuals who get photographed alone. Men and women. Widowed, divorced, never married. Some have grown children and grandchildren, but they don’t live here. The men were pretty matter of fact about flying solo, but the women would say, “Just me” and sigh. Busy filling out forms, I would nod and say, “Me too.”
Ending up alone is not unusual, whether you have 10 children or none. But the beautiful thing was the way friends connected while they waited for their turns in front of the camera. Some people have been going to this church for 50 years. Our parish is like a big family. Once you enter, you don’t have to be alone.
I know everyone is not religious, and I’m not here to convert anybody. But people can create family relationships in all kinds of groups. For many, their co-workers become a family. But you can also get involved in whatever interests you. Here on the Oregon Coast, people volunteer at the aquarium. They join the therapy dog group. They sing with Sweet Adelines or volunteer at the homeless shelter. They help with programs for kids at schools, churches, and sports organizations. I’ll bet there are plenty of opportunities wherever you live.
I know one of our biggest fears is ending up alone if we don’t have children. And we might. It’s just me and the dog at my house, and sometimes I hate it. But we don’t have to be alone. When somebody needs help, be the one who says, “I’ll do it.”
What do you think about this? I welcome your comments.