Someone in our family, who shall remain nameless, decided the second Friday in June would be a perfect time for family photos. I had never before known how hot “hotter than blue blazes” was until then. With the June sun beating down on us, all dressed in various shades of navy, I figured out it meant so hot Moma had to pass out Bounty double-quilted paper towels to every one from 4 years old to 84, to wipe sweat from their faces and God knows where else.
I bet when this photographer donated a gift certificate for a family photo session to the elementary school’s winter carnival, she never dreamed she’d be shooting a family of 14 in the blazing summer sun by a pond swarming with mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Taking pictures of our family was like herding cats and the hot sun didn’t help. The 4 year old was so hot, she went into meltdown mode along with the 84 year old who was openly expressing her disdain for having her pictures taken directly to the photographer. The 8 and 10 year old girls were eye rolling and deep breathing between pics while the boys were punching and picking between, and sometimes during, the photos. The 19 year old ladies man thought it was his duty to show his pretty face to the world while Daddy insisted these pictures would look great on his casket. Moma was running around like a stewardess, passing out paper towels and bottled water in an effort to ward off heat stroke while Melinda and Joanna were in charge of the “list of pictures” we wanted, calling out the names of family members making them chief “cat herders.” The rest of us stood around dripping sweat waiting for the next picture, griping under our breath.
I wasn’t all smiles and sunshine during the shoot myself. Me and the 4 year old were very much in meltdown mode. The sweat running into my eyes was causing one of my strategically placed fake eyelashes to lift. Total crisis. As if a dangling fake eyelash that resembled a black bushy caterpillar wasn’t bad enough, my hair didn’t like the heat either. There are only two hairstyles in Tennessee’s summer humidity - falling flat or frizzy. However, mine had decided to somehow combine both styles into a combo of flat on the top frizzed on the bottom. By the end of the photo shoot, I had told my nieces and nephews if they didn’t smile, no one would get Christmas presents this year, told the older boys anxious to get to their Friday night fun to shut up and smile because we would want these pictures if someone died, and griped to anyone who would listen about my ever flattening hair. I don’t know what my problem was. Let’s just blame my bad behavior on the eyelash glue and hot sun, ok?
While the pictures may have captured a sweet loving family, the day itself captured the real Kemp family - a big hot mess that despite our griping, complaining, picking, and punching, we show up when it counts, when we need each other, in a big old bunch even if it’s awkward, uncomfortable, and hotter than blue blazes— maybe with a fake smile every once in a awhile…..but always LOVE.