The Yearbook Photo Debacle
When my daughter graduated High School, the year book sold ads to the parents. In these ads, the parents usually put a “cutsie” picture of their child, and congratulated them on becoming a high school graduate.
I was just sitting there, thinking about whether we should get an ad for my daughter when a particular picture caught my eye.
In the picture, she was about 18-24 months old, with curly hair that made her look like Shirley Temple (for those of you unfamiliar with Shirley, she was the most popular child star in the 1930’s), with her arms wrapped around a baby goat as if she was trying to lift the goat. She had a very intense look of concentration and effort. We took this picture at the Long Island Game Farm which had a petting zoo and allowed the children to interact with the animals.
With the picture in hand, I went to the high school and located the Yearbook Office.
My daughter was very popular in high school, was editor of the school paper, treasurer of her class, a cheerleader and excellent student. The point is, most of the staff of the yearbook knew her and were friends with her.
I proceeded to ask for an ad form, and wrote out my message: “From 2 year old National Goat Tossing Champion to High School Graduate, Congratulations to Ronni from her parents”. I then offered the ad with the picture and check, to one of the staff members, who happened to be one of my daughter’s best friends. She was also a little “ditsy”, which I found fortuitous.
“What is this?” she asked. “Is this true?”.
“Of course” I answered as the rest of the staff gathered round. “Let’s keep this a secret” I said, “we want it to be a surprise”.
After oohing and aahing, they agreed to keep it a secret.
After I left, the first girl ran into my daughter and casually asked her if it was true, was she really the National Goat Tossing Champion?
No dummy, my daughter immediately realized who was responsible for this and asked “my father was here, wasn’t he?”.
With the affirmative answer, she knew what had occurred. Fortunately for me she has a sense of humor and a tolerance for my flights of whimsy, the ad stayed as written.
The die was cast, the pattern set for my son, niece and possibly nephew.
My niece, who lived very near to us, graduated the following year. She is somewhat less tolerant of my sense of humor if it affects her, and at that age embarrassed easily. What to do, what to do?
I happened upon a picture of her and my daughter taken when they were one and one and a half years old. They were dressed in somewhat shabby looking clothes, holding hands at the end of a dock, near dusk, and looking very forlorn and somewhat pitiful. In short a perfect picture.
With picture in hand, I went to my niece’s high school, went to the main office and asked to speak with someone from the yearbook about taking out an ad.
They sent word to the yearbook office and shortly a young girl came out to meet me.
I told her that I wanted to place an ad in the yearbook using the picture I had brought, with the caption: “From young immigrant to High School Graduate, What a country”.
The girl, who happened to be Vietnamese, told me she had pictures like that of herself and her family. They had immigrated in the 70’s.
I told her to keep it a secret because I was trying to surprise my niece. She did keep it a secret, but because of the “kinship” she felt with my niece, went out of her way to try to be friendly towards her from then on. My niece, who hadn’t known the young Vietnamese girl before was somewhat mystified as to why the girl was so friendly to her for the rest of the year.
The Day of Reckoning came. The yearbook was distributed on the next to last day of the school year.
My niece was happily getting signatures in her book, blithely unaware of the ad lurking inside. She was not expecting any ad, since her parents did not place one.
All that changed midway through the day. Her girlfriends started coming up to her and questioning her status as an immigrant, as well as commenting on the picture in the ad.
“What ad, what picture?”. They showed her the offending ad.
I got an angry phone call that afternoon in the vein of “How could you do this to me? I am so embarrassed, I am so mad, etc, etc” I seem to remember she didn’t speak to me for a little while, but I would have loved to see her face when she first saw the ad. It would have been worth it.
Next up was my son. Like my niece he embarrassed easily, so much the better.
For many years we and friends and relatives, took part in the Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale. This consisted of turning the boat into a themed float with all of us in costumes. That year, we were “The Wizard of Oz”, complete with a spinning tornado in lights, lighted rainbow over the whole boat, and all of us in costume. I was a flying monkey, my daughter was Dorothy, my wife was a witch, my niece the lion, our friend was the Tin Man, there was the good witch, various characters from the story, and my son was the scarecrow.
Of course we took a picture of all of us on the back of the boat, at the dock, in costume.
The caption on his yearbook ad said “For Seth’s Graduation, His real family came from the Old Country”
He took it well when he saw it in the yearbook.
Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t allow me to do the same for my nephew. I had a lot of pictures for him, and if anything, he would have been more embarrassed than his sister. It would have been great.
Some of you may think this is terrible. My answer is, if you can’t have fun embarrassing your kids, what good are they.