Friday, 2 December 2016

Sears Portrait Studio: The Grimmest Place on Earth

It dawned on me last year, as I was opening up yet another Christmas card where the sender's child was folded up like a piece of origami and stuck in a bucket, that the whole "children and props and pictures" craze was getting out of hand.

Babies in boots.

Babies in buckets.

Babies in crates, in baskets, in toolboxes, in luggage, in bird's nests, and in really sketchy looking hammocks.

It's all too much! I blame Anne Geddes. I mean, remember when it was a thing that people went crazy for buying Anne Geddes calendars of strange babies dressed up like flowers, and stuck in pots?! It's like they couldn't wait to start procreating so they too could have their very own month-of-August baby bumblebee, pictured slipping dangerously off an acrylic flower petal.

I shook my head at the nonsense of it all and vowed that next year I was going old-school with the Christmas kid portrait. I was going to blow people's minds when they opened the Christmas card and saw a human shaped child in the picture, and not an infant contorted into the shape of a sleigh.

I was going to Sears!


Cue yesterday.

Our Sears portrait session was booked for promptly at 11:00, which was optimal smiling time for our Lulu Bird, and the promise of a lunch hot dog was a tangible bribe for LB since we could literally smell them from the neighbouring food court. We arrived at Sears, and the photographer shook a frazzled hand at me and ordered me to take a chair.


I kept our Lulu Bird happy by rocking her buggy back and forth, and LB was content to play with what can only be described as the rotting corpses of toys of Christmas past. These were so decrepit they were almost the ghosts of toys of Christmas past.

One of the other customers eventually wandered over to have a peek in the buggy, smiled at LW, and then told me that she was there getting portraits done of her daughter "and [her] daughter's brothers." Took me a minute to figure out the family that was eating up my portrait time was three women who all had kids from the same guy. He's not in the picture (haha, punny!), but she told me the moms all get together so the kids can play and they can see who got paid child support.

I'm not even kidding.

Eventually the frazzled photographer stomped into the portrait cave and ordered me to follow. I stepped in and she said, "I'm assuming this is for Christmas so I'm just leaving this Christmas background down. It's our nicest one, you don't want to see the others."

Um, what?

Then I said I don't want a Christmas background, I want a plain colour because this is going to go on our wall at home. Year round. With great irritation she dropped the other backgrounds so I could choose, but I have a sneaking suspicion she didn't let me see all of them.

And let's pause for a minute to discuss this portrait studio. As soon as you walk in, you bang your toes and knees on props that are scattered everywhere. Chairs, trunks, artificial flowers, random strands of pearls, sleds, and enormous candy canes. When you look to your right, there is a wooden block and that's where the children sit. And oh, did I mention the entire room is the size of my dining room table? Cozy!

I got my girls set up, and the photographer said in a bored voice: "Okay, look up here. Hey, look up here. Smile. It will be nicer if you smile."

So what does LB do? She makes a deliberate frown and says, "I'm too sad to smile today."

The photographer, who is obviously not 'leaning in' to this job, sighs, "Well that's perfect. As if today isn't hard enough."

And just like that my dreams of an old-school Sears portrait with my cherubic kids looking up and off into the distance turned to dust; just like the gross toys in the waiting room are going to do in about five minutes.

After thirty minutes of coaxing and tears, I finally pulled myself together and tried to get the kids to smile. Nope. What a mess. We got ONE, literally one, picture of LB looking left with a glimmer of mischief in her eye, and my Lulu Bird looking right with her mouth open and what can only be described as a, "Duh, what's happening Mom?" look on her face. And that was the winner.

The whole experience was made worse by the photographer leaving me hanging mid-checkout (with a crying baby who was losing her shit) to help a stray Sears shopper who wanted to book an appointment.

Please enjoy the following exchange:

Stray shopper: "Oh, a portrait studio. Didn't know they still had these. Well, I think I'll book an appointment."

Unmotivated photographer: "For when."

SS: "What do you have."

UP: "What day do you want?"

SS: "Thursday?"

UP: "Here are our free times, akldh;ilghadkhga;hk. Got that?"

SS: "11:00?"

UP: "Okay, 11:00."

SS: "Well, I can't do 11:00! It's for my kids!"

UP: "Why not 11:00."

SS: "They're in school at 11:00!"

UP: "Okay....pick a time."

SS: "3:00? No. 4:00? 4:30?"


Next year, I'm paying someone to fold my kids up and stick them in a Santa sack.

It will be perfect.

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