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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Is That What I was Supposed to Do?

I received a CD-rom from my cousins yesterday. It contained more than 1,300 family photos. The note promised pictures from several weddings, including my own, major birthday parties for family members, showers, holidays and more. Oh boy, I thought, eager to relive the old days with so many loved ones who have passed away.

There was some of that, but most of the pictures were of my cousins and their kids. Three cousins, five kids, three spouses of the kids at every age from newborn to young adult. So many group photos. Moms pregnant, moms at baby showers, moms holding their babies, moms, dads and grandparents with tiny gap-toothed kids of varying heights. The passing generations of parents to children to their children. Soon these young adults will be having their own offspring, and the cyle will go on with baby pictures, first communions, graduations, weddings, and more baby pictures. Of course the people who took the pictures, cousins whom I treasure even though I rarely see them, would focus mostly on their own families. My own photo albums have pictures of my family, although lately I haven’t taken very many.

These days, my photos tend to be of old barns, flowers, bridges, trees, and dogs. If I had children, I suppose I’d be snapping photos of them incessantly and proudly foisting them on relatives who would display them on their pianos, end tables and bookshelves. But I don’t have that kind of photos. A few stepchild photos here and there, but not many.

I did find some wonderful shots on the CD-rom of my grandmother, my mother and aunts and uncles who have passed away. There were a couple from my wedding and some that showed me the way I used to look. So young! I will save these pictures and love them. But the generations stop with me. I don’t fit into the family picture the way my cousins do. I’m different. It makes me sad.

Do you know what I mean? Do you feel that way sometimes? Like the one looking on from afar?