Taking a picture of a teen is like taking a picture of Bigfoot. The Loch Ness monster. Chupacabra. Results are hard to decipher. You get a blur of hair or a running body. You get the back of one standing with others, a line-up of sorts, in reverse. They’re all dressed alike, same height, same hair.
Mine gets on a tire swing and for a split second, I see her little-hood oozing out in her smile. She sees the camera and immediately gets back into her grumpy character where everything about life is horrid, brows furrowed, braced teeth gritted, and a small grumble eking out “Mo-O-m! Ugh! I hate pictures!” because she also hates speaking.
I got what I could, sifted through a hundred photo bursts, and found a glimmer of hope, one capturing the essence of who she really is deep inside all of those defensive teen-aged layers–even if that first teen year is the only layer there. It’s tough and almost impenetrable. Almost.
“Get one of me with Dad.” We stand, stiffly posed along the bank of the San Gabriel river. The light is perfect. We’re both not grumbly middle-aged parents. We’ve shed our own layers for a while.
“Give us a warning, at least,” I remind her, because we know she’ll capture us mid-yawn. Eyes closed. Mouths opened.
Brows furrowed with a small grumble starts out a whiny “F-i-ah! You’re taking selfies! Take the picture so we can move on and let other people get a turn.”
Laughter ensues, she shows BFF the screen, pretends to run, but first returns the phone and then runs. We take a look and there we are. It’s a good one.
Even better are the selfies. There she is. They’re good ones.
All layers–the one layer–shed because she played. Dimples in their original location. Braced teeth. A sparkle in her eyes. She’s still there.