Every family has their own legends; the stories that won't die. My sister and I love to rehash the tale of the Wagon Wheel dress.
My mother is the dearest person in the world. That said, she always went full out mental the night before school pictures were taken. Not mental in the bad way, but definitely much too fixated on school picture preparations. Heck, it IS mental in a bad way, but delivered with blind mom love.
For example, one of her favorite "night before pictures" activities was perming our hair. In the sixties and seventies, perms ruled, so it wasn't an unusual thing to get a perm - it was, however, ill-timed. If you've never experienced a home perm, it is really something grand. Hours of rolling tiny rods, applying incredibly stinky chemicals, prayers, checking the curls, praying some more, checking the curls again and finally rinsing it out. Christmas had less surprises, believe me. But then, Mom would sometimes take it a step further and roll up my hair so it would look really good (in theory).
"Oh, you can sleep in those curlers - that way, you're hair won't be flat in the morning," she'd suggest.
Next morning, I'd pull the curlers out - at least, I think that was what I was doing because I didn't sleep a wink. Sleeping in curlers is like filling your pillow case with rocks. Combing out my hair brought new wonders. As I looked in the mirror, I noticed that these big, two inch curls that covered my noggin were going nowhere. Frantically, I'm brushing my head like Cinderella scrubbing the floor. Loosen up, loosen up! I can't go to school like this!
On the school bus, I was secretly spitting on my finger tips, dampening my hair and pulling at the curls in an effort make the mess straighten - but it never did, and I have the pictures to prove it.
In 8th grade, picture time arrived right around the phase of the moon where my mom was on a sewing bender. Mom decided to make me a dress for my school picture. My mom is a wonderful, talented seamstress who has made unbelievable things. She would tackle any tough sewing project without batting an eye. She had a new sewing machine and it was getting a workout. She seemed quite pleased with the final result. The final product was a short, brown and black leopard print dress with a slit neckline and three-quarter juliet sleeves. The darker colors made the print a bit more understated, which I loved. Although I've never been much interested in the animal print stuff, she did a great job. My picture fears were actually fading.
Equally comforting was the fact that I had abandoned longer hair for a short pixie cut - totally straight (read between the lines: no possible perms that year!).
The dress was pressed and hanging on a closet door when I went to sleep with the steady hum of the sewing machine in the background. Mom was trying out all the new stitches and really enjoying her new "toy."
Nowadays, we have different stitches on machines that can be easily dialed up. Back in the day, my mom's new machine had "cams." Cams were plastic discs that you dropped into the machine to do decorative stitching. Thinking back, it was pretty fascinating to go from two choices - straight stitch or zig zag - to stitches that looked like waves or hearts or even ducks. Understandably, Mom loved it.
When I woke the next morning, I went to the sewing room to grab the dress. Frozen in place, I observed all the new changes to the dress that had occurred after I went to bed. With white thread, she had created her sewing opus through the wonders of cam madness. She had sewn decorative stitches all around the cuffs of the sleeves - three or four different stitches. The neckline received the same treatment with a little something else: she had created some pattern that looked like a necklace to her. My sister and I thought it looked like a ridiculous wagon wheel that would embarrass the wearer into an early grave (if they were lucky).
All the while, I'm thinking, "I'm going to have to wear this today. There's no way I can get out of it."
It's the classic parent-teen conundrum, in fact. I'd rather die than wear it, and Mom had worked on it too long to allow me to dis her masterpiece. But, once again, I'd feel the full burden of the teenage condition and fantasize that I looked like a dweeb in a duck suit. Only now, the duck suit was covered with a leopard print wagon wheel dress.
And so I wore the dreaded wagon wheel dress and got my school picture. To firm up my opposition stance, I didn't take a shower. Wishing my displeasure would be wildly apparent, but not wanting to hurt my mom's feelings, put me at a distinct disadvantage as far as social indignity symbolic options were concerned.
When I got to school, the line for pictures was so long. I made the mistake of telling a friend how horrified I was at the dress "modifications." As I sat for the picture, my thought was that I'd try to look forlorn and displeased, thus memorializing my angst.
Geez - totally denied! The friend ruined my great acting opportunity when he taunted me with the words, "Wagon. Wheel." I laughed. Snap, flash and I'm smiling in the picture - which puts me on film, in the wagon wheel dress and looking like I'm happy about it. Epic, epic fail.
My sister, who claims to like me, posted the wagon wheel picture on Facebook. People who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones. One day, you'll think the wagon wheel picture betrayal is far behind you and you'll go on to live a relatively stress free existence, forgetting that I lie in wait of the perfect moment to post some of my favorite sister pictures from my hidden archives.
Remember, I'm not the only one Mom talked into something crazy.
I have two words for you, sis: GLAMOUR SHOTS. Of course, Mom gave me some of those fine photos. Why aren't they hanging in your office? Wouldn't work friends enjoy them? A picture is necessary - I can't believe your hair could be that big. And rhinestoned denim was a surprising fashion choice...but let's just wait for the picture and discuss it then.