January 30, 2007
Photo Opportunities
With Dad’s health completely inconsistent and the Spin Doctors being played on DC’s classic rock station, I’ve been thinking a lot about just how old I am. Yesterday, my mother actually asked me whether I wanted to be cremated or buried after death. I don’t think she anticipated the twenty-minute reply I gave her, detailing how she should definitely have me cremated unless my death occurred under suspicious circumstances, and then, no matter what lines they feed her about not being able to find my killer despite a wealth of evidence, she should have me pickled and buried until science and technology catch up with his sorry ass and my lifelong dream of being on a true-crime cable show one way or another is ultimately realized. Then again, she may have anticipated that nonsense, but I’m quite sure she didn’t anticipate a plan to have all of my friends, co-workers and blog readers to a central place for a really festive party possibly catered by Taco Bell, but only after a long, touching memorial service at which the right choice of sappy music left everyone weeping for the untimely loss of their Kris. She was sorry she asked.

But if the lengthy death itineraries didn’t do it, the opening of the closet my sister and I generally maintain holds one of our mangled, caged twins, made her sorry. Opening is actually a kind word, for last night I womanhandled wrapping supplies and decorative pillows and 70’s artwork to get to the three existing boxes of family photos (the rest are reportedly in slides, those wonders of technology we’re pretty certain won’t be making the comeback old boyfriends and Teri Hatcher have). Before they could object, I commandeered every walking surface for my reminiscing project, covering the floor in old-timey pics of my twenty-something mother in a swimming costume and black and white shots of my father that failed to do his beautiful, icy eyes justice.

I wasted little time on the ridiculous number of familiar pictures of my sister, the firstborn, which naturally translates into shots of her doing the same thing over and over again. Like eating. And sitting. And sleeping. And wearing a God awful Dorothy Hamill haircut before Dorothy Hamill actually did. Instead, I bypassed this photographic excess for the pictures of the miniature Kris, given that earlier searches of the family photo archives revealed little proof of life prior to junior high school. Mom attributed this oversight not to illegal adoption but being lost in the shuffle that was moving on multiple overseas assignments and a lack of time or interest in keeping such things in order. When you could be playing bridge and having high tea. Obviously.

She was right. Given the absence of Photoshop in the 1970s, I apparently wasn’t adopted after all. I discovered a picture of myself at only 15 days, wearing that same pudgy nose, being cradled by a woman who looked strangely like my mother if it weren’t for the dark hair of her youth. My birth announcement was next, yellowed and revealing that for 33 years I have been lying to others about the time at which I first saw the light of New Jersey. Photos of my already-ample chin barely sticking out of an awful frilly Pennsylvania Dutch concoction that boasted red and white and blue and yellow all in the same outfit! A dancing and pigtailed me in a full black leotard while the rest of the ballerinas are pretty in pink. A tiny Kris opening an almost tinier bike and my first Paddington Bear and the Donny and Marie microphone that I’m pretty sure I only relinquished when the literal flood of graduate school whisked it from my clutches.

Soon my parents too couldn’t resist the lure of the hundreds of shiny papers that littered their floor. Dad corrected the date stamp on one photo of a cherry-red convertible as decidedly from 1964, not 1963. He laughed out loud at a picture of my mother holding their first puppy Ginger in one arm while feeding my infant sister with the other. He lingered over a photo of a young version of himself sitting on the nondescript couch next to a mother now gone almost 30 full years. Mom scoffed at Senior photos of her poised and gentle face, captivating shots that left me wondering if that instant was the last in which she was so calm and seemingly carefree. She told me for the first time that the wedding dress in the photo still hung in her closet only 30 feet away. In the next moment she recognized a picture of her grandfather, one taken the day before he died. She recounted how that morning he’d taken her into the shady lane to practice tennis strokes, and how after lunch he’d had a heart attack, and left her life never the same.

So I’m thinking it’s time for more photos of us. Of me and you and the cats and the parents and the neighbors. When we’re standing in front of the White House and when we’re eating at our favorite local dive. When we’re dying Easter eggs or doing laundry in a basin in the backyard, and when we’re taking a breather under a tree the day before we teach our oldest granddaughter how to play tennis. Because at a time when my father can’t seem to remember what message my mother left for me ten minutes prior and Mom can’t stay off the phone with friends to finish a family conversation, these pictures made my parents fully present. And because as these three boxes revealed, twenty years later no one cares if you were wearing makeup that day, because the photos of the Twin Towers or that floral green couch or that Brownie uniform mean a million times more with you and your mom, with feathered hair and the same exact chin, sharing the frame.



Blogger Paige Jennifer said...

It's posts like this that confirm why I have a blog crush on you.

Awesome, Kris. Just awesome.

Blogger emily said...

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
I had the David Cassidy microphone, by the way. Or was it Shaun?

Anonymous Michele said...

Absolutely. I realized a few months ago that I was editing myself out of my kids lives because I hate pictures of myself. I gave up the battle with the lens and am now present again in those pictures, double chin and all.
I really cant imagine that 30 years from now my kids will obsess over how badly I needed my highlights done that day we played in the snow.

Blogger Miss Pickle said...

You've just summed up the reason why I take pictures on almost a daily basis. Even though people complain from time to time, the memories will be worth it years from now.

Beautiful post. Thank you.

Blogger mysterygirl! said...

Another beautiful post. You're on a roll.

Blogger Oh, The Joys said...
Anonymous Alison said...

Excellent post.

Awwww. Beautiful post. I'm off to take pictures of my big ol' belly. I may even let someone take a picture of me playing with my child. You've inspired me.

Blogger bandick said...

Weird. Too weird. I was just (literally right before I read your post) searching for a picture of me with my best friend. She's only been my friend for the past 28 years (since we were six) and I could only find ONE that was taken within the last ten years! I thought, "it's time to put my cameras to use"...

Then I thought, "it's been too long since I've checked in on Krisser"...too weird.

Blogger anno said...

I used to feel like my memories were more reliable than those stupid, ill-framed, out-of-focus shots I used to take with my Kodak Instamatic (the one with the cube flashes).

And then I came across these pictures of my mom in a nubbly green silk shift, her hair up in french twist, putting a platter of bridge mix down on the danish modern teak end tables we used to own, and I am suddenly viscerally gut-punched with how beautiful she was and how much I have forgotten about her.

You've inspired me to get my camera out. Today.

Great post. Great pictures. Thanks.

Blogger Amaya said...

That was really sweet. It makes me want to go home and look through my piles and piles of photos. And maybe even organize them.

Blogger JoJo said...

Great post. I need another box of tissues.

Anonymous Jurgen Nation said...

Holy ADORABLE! Love, love, love.


Blogger Michele said...

Sounds like you need a slide scanner. My family as well had boxes upon boxes of slides that had probably not been looked at since they had been taken. Over the last year my stepdad scanned them one by one - 17,000 in total.It's amazing looking over all those photos.

Blogger Bill said...

I'm sending a link to this post to a friend of mine whose only comment on any picture is, "Delete that. Throw it out. I look awful. My hair's not right."

Some people just don't get it.

Blogger TJ said...

Great post--so well written! And thanks for the trip down memory lane--I recognized that toy on the right-hand side of the picture. I'm pretty sure it's a Fisher Price Holiday Inn--I remember having one of those, and I think a McDonald's one too.

Hope to see more pics!

Anonymous barkingspace said...


Regarding your death party. I don't think you'd need to have any music or eulogies to have me weeping uncontrollably if you ever did pass away before me.

This is something I never want to experience. So you'd better stay alive or I'll kill you.

I love photographs.
I love capturing the moment the exact way that I see it.

This drives Mrs. J crazy. But let me tell you, when you can evoke the emotions that you experienced when you actually took the picture...

So many awesome memories.


Blogger JordanBaker said...

I remember coveting that toy in the background, but I don't remember what it was. Hm.

Nicely done.

Blogger Austin Girl said...

I share your dream of "being on a true-crime cable show one way or another is ultimately realized." I personally blame "Law & Order: Malibu Most Wanted"...or whatever spin-off they are up to.

Thanks for making me laugh.

Blogger Lisa said...

Two comments: a) City Confidential has the best true crime one-liners and b) mmm...taco bell.

Anonymous gorillabuns said...

i dream my death will be a made for t.v., 20 minute, 48 hours spot. i'm sure it will be boringly simple, "she died from a stroke while crapping on the pot."

since, there doesn't seem to be any pictures apart from my 1 year old encephalitic big head cut to my painful montage of pre-adolesence, i make it a habit to take pictures of my kids so, they won't continually ask the "am i adopted?" question. though, i'm not in any of these pictures, i'm sure they'll ask the question all the same.

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