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Last weekend we had our family pictures taken. This was in conjunction with our oldest daughter’s senior pictures, so her mom’s family had their family pics taken right after us. Our daughter has wanted a picture of herself, her mom and dad for years because there is no professional picture of the three of them. They separated when she was less than a year old.

For years, our two oldest children have had to bring a conglomeration of pictures with them to school whenever asked to bring a family picture. Here’s me with my dad’s family and here’s me with my mom’s family. This has always pained me because I watched it pain them. It was going to be nice for them to have a pic of them with their mom and dad together.

The first challenge was what to wear. On the wall in the photographer’s studio is, to me, an example of what not to wear. Guys in brown puffy vests, girls in brown and pink plaid puffy vests. I imagine this is the stereotype of a Midwesterner every east or west coaster must have.

If you Google family pictures, you’ll see a major trend is to dress everyone in white or everyone in black.

I split the difference and put girls in black, guys in white. I know, I know, but I’m a Midwesterner, too. At least there was no plaid or puffiness involved. And black is so slimming……

Our pics went well, I thought, particularly given the fact that we haven’t seen our oldest son more than three times in six months. Then my husband’s ex and her family showed up.

Let me say that I felt I’d overdone the jewelry for me. I had on two earrings in each ear, a bracelet, a necklace, and an ankle bracelet. My husband’s ex, as I’ve mentioned before, is very much into fashion, and she came in in all black with at least five necklaces around her neck and five or six earrings in each ear. My youngest son wore a smile to accompany his white shirt. Hers wore a fedora and a necklace, like a little Justin Bieber. It was a funny visual reminder of one of our basic differences.

I knew, and advocated for, the picture of my husband and his ex with their biologically shared children. But that did not prepare me for how weird it was to see them all posed together. It was like pulling back the curtain on an alternate history where I did not enter my husband’s life and he and his first wife stayed married, their little family intact.
So then our oldest daughter sprung her surprise. “I want one of everybody together.” I should have seen it coming, but I did not. The photographer laughed and said, “why not. It will be a first for me.” So there we were, all nine of us. I can’t wait to see the pictures–all of them–and I can’t wait to hand my daughter a picture of her family. Her whole family. All in one place.