I call it the "death glare."
It's her automatic go-to look when the camera comes out. I'm not talking about my sister, Foo-Dog, who is quite fierce - she just won the Wheeling Toughman's women's division and holler at Mike Traubert, Brooke County's preeminent boxing historian, for the nice release he sent in - I'm talking about my Sassy Saint, the sunshiniest child this side of the Alleghenies.
She hates the camera. Just hates it. When it comes out, I'm lucky if I get the blank face. The one in which she looks like a deer pinned by the headlights who just realized the heavenly gates are opening. That's the face I usually get when she doesn't know the camera is coming.
When she sees it coming, I get the death glare. It's actually quite impressive. She really looks like she's going to rip someone's face right off the skull.
Even Leader, who has had Sassy in her Girl Scout troop since she was a kindergartner, marvels at her refusal to smile. Leader often photographs the girls being all Girl Scout-y and community-minded, and she can't get a smile from her, either. At least it's not just me.
My cousin, The Photog, recently opened a new photo studio, and she can manage to get Sassy to give her the fake smile. The one that says, "my lips are smiling, but I am either trying not to vomit, plotting your eminent demise or both."
It is weird, because Sassy is nothing if not animated, talkative, dramatic and laughing. She can't wait to tell you all about her latest obsession - Les Miserables at the moment; thanks, Aaron Tveit, if I hear one more time how awesome Enjolras is ... - or her latest cause - potable water in Africa and literacy for females in third-world countries. She's passionate about the things she loves, but getting her picture taken isn't one of those things.
This is the reason I can't let her get her pictures taken at school - the school photographer doesn't have enough time to coax a smile from her, and, frankly, I can't do it either, and I'm her mother. Really, there isn't enough time in the day, because she doesn't smile for the camera.
I don't even bother buying those photos any more, because if I'm not there to remind her how much money I'm paying for these pictures, and, for the love of puppies and kittens, won't she smile, because her father is going to be irritated if he gets another set of pictures in which she's glaring at the camera. (You should see the Long Suffering Husband's irritation - he sighs and looks up to the heavens as if enlisting divine assistance.)
I don't even know when school pictures are being taken anymore. So, when she came home and announced she'd had her picture taken for the yearbook, I looked at her wind-blown hair and sighed.
Then she took off her coat and I saw what she was wearing - one of my ancient T-shirts with the school name written across the front. Only she doesn't go to my alma mater, she goes to her father's alma mater, and the two schools are rivals.
"You didn't get your picture taken in that," I said. "Please tell me you didn't get your picture taken for the yearbook in that."
"Don't worry, Momma," she assured me. "The principal thought it was funny."
Maybe it will distract from the death glare.
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)