She sighed, removing sweat from her forehead in a careless swipe.
Perhaps fear of destroying her makeup should have gripped her more, but with six children, one crying, one angry, one confused, one amused, and two becoming increasingly exasperated; at the moment she really could not care less.
"Shaun, I don't care if he poked you; straighten up your shirt and settle down, before I take away your toys again." That silenced him also immediately, except for the occasional sniffle. One could not expect miracles.
She spun around to the next child. "James, if I catch you annoying Shaun again, I'll be forced to punish both of you."
"But it's taking so long!" James whined in outrage, "sitting here is boring!"
"It'd be ten times shorter if you would stop making your younger brother cry! Now sit there and keep your hands to yourself or else." She raised a threatening finger, resulting in a cowering James, who sat still with a grumpy expression on his face.
Her next son, Kyle, was trying to stand in front, constantly looking at his feet shuffling. "No Kyle, you're supposed to be standing over here, beside me."
"But then, Jessica and Janet will be blocking me from view," Kyle said, voice hesitant, feet still moving.
She almost laughed aloud. "How many times do we have to tell you before you believe us: you are taller than both your sisters. Just stand there and trust me, alright?" Kyle nodded uncertainly, but moved faithfully according to her advice.
Her last and oldest son, Ben was just standing there, grinning at everyone, his shoulders shaking slightly. She looked him up and down, and just stifled a giggle herself. She was beginning to realize how funny her family must look.
"Don't laugh during the photo, Ben. Just smile with the rest of us, okay?"
"A‐Alright Mom. I'll try."
They all gathered together as the Father fixed the camera onto the tripod, adjusted the settings, and pressed the button. The light on the camera slowly blinked red, allowing him time to join the family photo. "Smile, everyone!" she said with a sharp edge in her voice, before the device clicked and the image was captured.
It had taken almost an hour to get everyone together and posing properly before they could finally set up the camera.
A job well done, she told herself, nodding with satisfaction.
* * *
"Hey, I remember this!"
Ben laughed as he picked out the photograph from its sleeve, smiling down at it with a strong feeling of nostalgia.
The siblings had been going through their mother's belongings, and had come across a small wooden box; it had quickly become a treasure chest as its contents were revealed. Jessica replaced another photo album back into the box and shifted over, looking at the photo. "Oh," she grinned, "that was before I left, wasn't it?"
Shaun and James stopped bantering to turn around. "What? What'd you find?" Shaun said excitedly, before standing up from the bed and leaning over the small group gathered by the chest. With a slight frown, Janet pushed Shaun to the side slightly. "You're blocking the light," she explained; she then adjusted the picture in Ben's hands slightly, preventing the oily layer of the picture from catching the glare completely.
"Wow, this is old," James said, in a similar position as Shaun. He smiled slightly as he remembered throwing a small tantrum before the photo was taken.
Kyle stopped his ministrations on the piano and turned his head to the side, listening in to the conversation.
"You can see that I was crying," Shaun said excitedly, pointing at his own, much younger face. "My eyes are still red; what was I so mad about?"
James sniggered, "Don't sweat it, you used to cry all the time. Probably some other dumb reason."
Shaun feigned ignorance, but a slight curving of the lips betrayed him as he extended a finger to match James' face. "Hey, since when did James become shorter than me?" he smirked, at which James immediately extended himself to full height, and tiptoed. Shaun did likewise, puffing out his chest. They both grinned.
"Settle down, you two," Kyle said quietly, replacing the protective clothe across the piano keys before closing the lid gently. He glanced over from the chair, trying to see above the heads of his older siblings. "Don't worry, just come closer, Kyle," said Jessica, amused. She shook her head in consternation "You're exactly like you were when we took this photo."
Kyle frowned, "I can't look exactly the same- it's been years."
Jessica continued her head shaking.
"Wow, I had such a big smile," Ben half shouted, trying to break into Kyle's thoughts before they grew out of hand.
"I've actually noticed a similar expression in all the family photos we've taken," Janet said. "if anything, you actually look like you're close to laughing."
"Really? I can't remember what for, though."
"Mom used to tell you not to laugh during a photo-taking session all the time; you really don't remember?"
"No... It's been years since we've taken a family photo."
At those words, almost everyone went quiet at once.
Later, they could never remember who had started the first raindrops, but it had quickly evolved into a storm. They all turned to tears, crying as they sat around the wooden treasure chest that held all their precious memories, hugging each other for comfort- weeping as they mourned forever incomplete family photos.
Their father pressed the button, and hurried to join them, standing at the side.
They all stood there, arms around each other, standing tall and smiling for all their worth.
When they looked at the photo from the screen of the digital camera, everyone knew Her face was missing, and that in every family photo thereafter, Her face would always be missing.
But no one noticed.