It's the start of summer break, the kids are sleeping in and already we are being initiated into our middle child's senior year shakedown.
Graduation is a year away for the Class of 2009, but apparently it all starts now with a smile and a click of a camera, followed by a strong-arm kind of invitation to open our wallets, and, by the way, keep it coming.
At least that's my thought after viewing and consequently gasping at the prices for high school senior portrait packages that arrived in the mail with my daughter's proofs.
Yes, we are just a couple of months away from embarking on one of those memorable milestone school years, but … COME ON!
Last year I was shelling out less than $20 for school pictures. Now the packages start at $75 and go upward of $500. More if you want additional poses or if you want the nicer taupe instead of the yearbook-ready blue background. Expect to pay even more if you want to edit out those braces or unsightly blemishes.
It all starts innocently enough, with a $13 sitting fee payable on the day said daughter's portraits were taken of her turning this way and that on a swivel chair while wearing a black velvet cloak. One shot has the middle child posing with a fake red rose. Another has her looking at the camera bare-shouldered, wearing something she ordinarily wouldn't be caught dead in: a white fake fur stole that looks like, well, a fake fur stole.
The middle child outgrew the Barbie doll look many years ago. And while it might be cute on a 6-year-old, at 17 it's a little cheesy. And it's also uncomfortably provocative for the middle child's dad, who responded with a grimace and a shudder and instructions to his "little princess" to never be seen wearing anything like that ever again — at least not in his presence.
No, we won't be hanging that one on the wall. Or the rest of them, for that matter.
I happen to be a little handy with the camera, so we already have a collection of candid pictures of our daughter that are more suitable for wall framing and better capture her spirit.
But the generic senior portrait says something, too. One of those on your mantel tells the world you have a high school grad. Accomplishment. Something to be proud of.
So, like the suckers we parents are, we'll pony up for one of the cheaper packages — the one that comes with a handful of wallets and a 5 by 7 that we can put in a moderately priced frame and place on the end table, right next to the one of the tuxedo-clad big brother who took us through this rigmarole seven years ago.
Yup, we bought the bargain package for him, too, even though it really doesn't feel like a bargain when you're writing the check and thinking about all the other expenses that are to follow: homecoming, prom, yearbook, SAT and college application fees, grad night, cap and gown, etc., etc., etc.
Welcome to the senior year shakedown.
It's just the beginning.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6251.