She is five years old. A reluctant kindergartener in the midst of a rocky start in this loud world of public school. She loves her teacher–a young and gentle woman with a soothing voice and a soft, curvy body pressed into snug dresses like Joan Harris on Mad Men.
She isn’t sure if she should smile or not. Truth is, she doesn’t really feel like it, but the photographer–a jovial man smelling of cigarettes and Old Spice—calls her “sweetheart” and cajoles her into a tentative smile anyway. She hates the way he calls her sweetheart. He clicks the shutter just after her expression wanes. It feels uncomfortable when people tell her to smile. People are always telling her to smile.
Her fashion is what really matters, though. The natty navy blue double-knit jumpsuit with the full-length zipper running from neck to belly. It’s her favorite outfit. She especially loves the blue and white striped t-shirt that seems to be custom made to wear with the jumpsuit. The pant legs with a subtle flare, stopping just shy of the bottom of the ankles, exposing her sturdy work boots. An acquisition from JC Penney, these boots are fantastic. Smooth tan leather with hefty lug soles and round, red laces. “Why do you wear BOY shoes?” the girls ask her, causing her cheeks to grow hot and red. Because they are fantastic, she thinks.
Her picture is taken and she slides from the stool and stands with her classmates at the back of the line. All she knows is that she wants to go home to her favorite things: her mom, her dog, Trinka, her room where she disappears into books and no one tells her to smile.