Mighty Life List
Aug 16 2010

Have Family Portraits Taken? Check!

The Masons from maile wilson on Vimeo.

These are the amazing photos Maile Wilson took of our little family. I couldn’t love them more, Maile is crazy talented, and she was working in the face of some serious challenges. My hyperventilation, for example.

Months ago, Maile spotted “have a family portrait taken” on my Mighty Life List, and made an offer. Maile had her own life list (which she just posted), and she wanted to photograph a family in Chinatown. After a few emails back and forth, we set a date a couple months out.

Then I got overwhelmed and completely forgot about it. This is a thing I do. All the time. I honestly avoid making appointments because I have to set 15 different alarms on my various electronic devices, and then the photo padding in my bag muffles them all, and then I unzip my bag (invariably in a church or library) and it sounds like a four alarm fire response team, but actually I was just supposed to meet a neighbor for yoga.

The Sunday afternoon the shoot was scheduled, Hank had just gone down for a nap. I changed into sweatpants, pulled my dirty hair into a ponytail, and climbed into bed.

The plan was to read a little PostSecret, maybe some Kottke, but my email happened to be open. At the top was a note from Maile, whom I’d never met, sent three mintues earlier. She didn’t have my number, but she was in Chinatown. I was in a stained tank top.

While my heart made a few desperate attempts to leap out my mouth and flop around on the bedspread, I thought about what to do. Throw my laptop out the window? Throw myself out the window? We’re only on the second floor. Perhaps I could trump up the injuries to an excuse-worthy level.

Instead, I sent Maile my number and sat very still.

When Bryan and I got engaged, I had to purchase a $20 white dress on eBay because I’d had weeks of dreams about waking on our wedding day with nothing white to wear. These were sequels to my “nothing to wear” dreams for prom, graduation, job interviews, friends’ weddings, trips to the DMV. In these dreams, I’m never naked, just dressed totally inappropriately for the occasion — wearing a straw boater and knee socks to a funeral or whatnot. Having to prepare my entire family for a portrait in 20 minutes or so is literally my recurring nightmare.

Fortunately Maile was very calm in the face of my hysterical apologies. She called to say Chinatown wouldn’t work for a shoot, and asked about a new location. I asked her to take a cab across town, and told her we would meet her. I said all this through the paper bag into which I had been breathing.

Next, I called Bryan who was across town at a bar reading — he was pleased. He told me how much he loves me, and how endearing it is when I interrupt his five minutes of downtime with appointments I’ve made for the whole family without telling him. I nodded and pawed through my closet for a dress I could wear with tights to hide my unshaven legs, plugged in the rollers, and ironed Hank’s shirt while shoving a banana in his mouth. Bryan came home and put on a clean shirt before pausing to make out with me. In the photos, he is wearing two different shoes. I did my makeup in the car.

Here’s Maile’s take on the shoot. Note how she didn’t even mention that I forgot about her? That’s because she is a professional.