“Quit complaining, my handsome boy. I’m taking you to school,” mom said.
“It’s photo day, mom. I just broke out with another zit on my forehead.”
“I’m sure it won’t show in the picture, just get ready.”
It was my worse day for pimples, and the one on the middle of my nose already made me look like Rudolf.
My hair was naturally curly, but because I tried every hair-straightening elixir on the market it became dry and kinky. My friend Tony was so cool, whose long blond hair hung almost to his butt. Unfortunately, mine defied gravity, and grew up and out instead of down. Being an adoptee that never knew my birthparents, I could never predict my physical destiny. Mom was short, fair-skinned, and chubby. Dad was tall, lanky, and sported three white hairs on his chest.
I was shorter than average, inherited a nose that was much larger than mom or dad’s, and had hair so coarse that BIlly Drinkas told me it looked like a pan scrubber. Fortunately, Afros came into vogue, at least in the black community, and I was a forerunner of the fashion. It was the roaring 70’s. Everyone had to be unique. Some kids wore their belt buckles on the side. Others had bell bottoms that dragged on the ground. Mom made me wear my pink shirt with the abnormally large, pointed collar.
“Everyone line up,” the grumpy, part-time photographer ushered all the eighth-graders one by one onto a low, hard, uncomfortable stool. “Okay, turn your shoulders back, turn your head in the opposite direction, raise your chin up, big smile, looks good.” Flash!
Each student sat into position, pretended to be Mr. or Ms. America for the three seconds before the flash, then resumed their normal slouchy states. Just before my turn, I reached for my Afro pick in my back pocket, then made five quick upward thrusts to make my hair poof as much as possible.
“Okay, Mike Watson, turn your shoulders back, turn your shoulders in the opposite direction…”
“Wait,” I said, hoping no one heard me. “Will this show up in the picture?” I pointed to the dime-sized red button on my nose.
“Don’t worry, Watson,” the photographer said. “We touch up all the blemishes. Can you flip your collar down on your left side? It’s sticking straight up.”
“Is this okay?” I asked.
“Uhm, yes, it’s a little better. Raise your chin up, big smile…”
“Wait!” My voice was louder. “When I smile big, my nose gets bigger.”
“We don’t have all day, Mr. Watson.” the photographer said.
“No, really. Look what happens when I smile big,” I grinned with my yellowed teeth and I could actually feel the width of my nose grow fifty percent.
Flash! “Beautiful!” the photographer said. “Kelly Whiteman is next.”
“But wait! You caught me off guard.”
“Mr. Watson, you looked great. Your mother will be proud of you.”
Note to the reader: If anyone would like to see the class photos taken in 1972 at Hazelwood Junior High School in New Albany, Indiana, be my guest. However, if you look for a student named Mike Watson, you will simply see a black square that says, “Sorry, No Photo.”
Written by Michael C. Watson
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