jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Picture Day?! Seriously?

I missed picture day last Monday.

I mean, my kids were at school and everything, but Reid was dressed like a polka dot Oompa-Loompa and Mica’s pants didn’t entirely cover his underwear. And who can understand that Hanna Andersson sizing? Turns out a size 50 is meant for a child who is 50 cm (metric system anyone?), and not “nearly 50 lbs.” I’d sent Cabot to school in leggings meant for a chubby 3 month old! Ouch. The dress was closer to her actual size at size 70, which is 5-12 months (the website literally says “5-12 months”!). For the record, she’s a 90th percentile 3 year-old. Oy!

And don’t get me wrong. I exhaled and reminded myself it’s no big deal. It’s not the first time I dressed my kids like clowns only to find the paparazzi ready and waiting…

School photo, 2011 I totally forgot this picture day, too.

School photo, 2011
I totally forgot this picture day, too.

But, I’m here to tell you it matters.

I still have all my school photos and am contemplating doing a series of woodcuts based on the outfits I wore. Because these are timely markers of a place in time in each of our lives.

I learned from Radiolab on NPR (where I learn all pertinent science information these days) that we don’t actually store memories whole and recover them as we left them. Turns out we recreate them. Every time we think we’re remembering something we’re repainting it, adding imagination, actually destroying the truth of the memory a bit. So when I remember being called Gretel by my teachers, it’s because I’ve seen photos of myself in the dirndl dress my father brought back from Germany, and I’ve revisited the memory, added some color. When I think of who I was as a kindergartner now that my oldest is a kindergartner, I think of my school photo first. Apparently, whatever I see in the photo is the only thing authentic left from that experience.


My sister, age 5
Kindergarten, 1969

Jennie, age 5, Kindergarten, 1976

Jennie, age 5
Kindergarten, 1976

This is who I was, how my mother loved me and dressed me in the polyester-blend dress bought on sale from Sears Roebucks for my older sisters, with the money my father earned working at RCA long hours every day. In the early 70’s when we played Charlie’s Angels during recess, I was wearing a mid-60’s dress with a HUGE Peter Pan collar. I can’t believe I wouldn’t have preferred bell-bottoms and a leather fringe vest, but in my memory, I loved this dress.

Jennie, age 5 (artist's proof) woodcut 18 x 25" by Jennifer Groeber

Jennie, age 5 (artist’s proof)
18 x 25″
by Jennifer Groeber

Present time: have my kids retake the school pictures? Rewrite the present as it becomes their past? Or allow that their mother loved them enough to put them in joyful prints, garish hair accoutrements, and comfy sneakers (yet again), and was too busy carving pumpkins, having a playdate or braising greens for dinner to get a Swedish to English size chart translation to sort those outgrown clothes out of their drawers? Hmm… Tempting.

We’ll wait to see what the pictures look like, but I’m leaning towards finding a way to positively spin the Oompa-Loompa dress, the pink sneakers, the waistband from Mica’s underpants. Maybe the evidence they find here to resurrect their past will be something lovely. One can only hope.

One comment on “Picture Day?! Seriously?

  1. talesfromthemotherland
    November 11, 2013

    I wrote a post about school photos a few weeks ago, for a blog hop on The Waiting. It was so interesting to read the various posts about people’s experiences with school photos. Let me offer my (older) motherly blessing: we do our best, and sometimes our best is better than if we’d tried to make it perfect. Let those school photos show that your kids were colorful, spontaneous and real. I lay my hands on you, mother to mother. For the record, my school photo post is not as happy and light. So embrace that your kids will look at those photos and see, who they really were, at this point in time. Bravo, right? 😉

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This entry was posted on November 4, 2013 by in Memory, The Children, This One Contains Art, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .

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