What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 12
Say Cowabunga, Dude 

[p.36]I’ve always had recurring nightmares about one thing or another ever since I was a kid.

When I was in junior high school, for instance, I used to dream that I accidentally went to algebra class naked. I’d be sitting there at my desk, listening to the teacher talk about “x” equaling “y,” and suddenly I’d realize I didn’t have any clothes on.

“Why don’t you have any clothes on?” my friend Gigi sitting next to me would ask.

“I don’t know,” I’d say, starting to panic. “I must have forgotten to put them on before I left this morning.”

Then I’d spend the rest of the dream trying to figure out how I was going to get from algebra class (point x) to my locker (point y) without anybody noticing me. Of course there were variations of this dream. Sometimes I dreamed I went to U.S. History naked, too.

I no longer dream about going to algebra without my clothes on, possibly because I don’t take algebra anymore, but I still have recurring nightmares. I dream, for instance, that I’m invited to a party only I realize once I get there that it isn’t really a party after all—it’s AN OPPORTUNITY TO SELL ME AMWAY—whereupon I faint dead away and everybody spends the rest of my dream trying to revive me with cleaning fluids.

Lately, however, I’ve been dreaming that I call up my friend Cyndie and offer to take her six children to Olan Mills Portrait Studio to have their picture taken. I pick up the phone and before I can stop them, the words, “Hey, why don’t you let me take your kids to Olan Mills this afternoon!” leap straight off my tongue.

Now Cyndie’s children are very attractive, very nice children, but I always wake up from one of these dreams in a huge sweat because taking children of any kind to have their pictures done is my idea of hell. You have to comb hair and coordinate outfits so that you look just like the Osmond Brothers, and you have to find socks—socks, for petessake—even though it’s a well-known fact that the mates to your family’s socks disappeared along with the dinosaurs a very long time [p.37]ago. Then, on your way over to the studio, the kids find old gum in the car and stick it in their hair.

This was probably why my own parents never had our pictures taken when we were kids. Besides, they were afraid I’d show up without any clothes on. As a result, we were the only family in Provo, Utah, that did not have a family portrait sitting on the piano next to the plastic grapes.

We were mavericks, don’t you know.

So because of my upbringing I never did see the point of family portraiture except as a way of documenting all the stupid ways you used to wear your hair.

Not too long ago, however, I got a phone call from someone with an extremely happy voice telling me I could win something if I just answered her question correctly.

“Okay,” I said. “Shoot.”

“Which of the following three individuals were once president of the United States: Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland?”

When I answered after much thought, she did a cheer in my ear and told me I’d won three sittings for the price of one at a local portrait studio.

So I went, and I’m still trying to recover.

For starters, all of my kids resented the fact they had to dress up even though (a) it wasn’t Sunday and (b) nobody in the family had died. Furthermore, my four-year-old son Dylan would not under any circumstances wear shoes because, as even the village idiot knows, Ninja Turtles don’t wear shoes. Not even when they have their Sunday pants on. So I just said to the photographer, please be sure to take the picture of Dylan’s head and not of his feet. Also it would help if everybody would just say “Cowabunga” instead of “Cheese.”

Talk about your nightmares.

The funny thing, of course, is that the picture actually turned out kind of cute. My four boys—their hair combed and their faces clean—are sitting together in a little group, smiling brightly, and wearing most of their clothes.

Only two of them had their eyes crossed.