The Strong Smile

As I stood there watching the photographer set up her equipment, I attempted to give the boys one last round of instructions.  It was important to me, and I wanted to get it right.

It was day three of our beach getaway – our cheeks were rosy, our shoulders tanned. The sun was setting at the perfect angle and the surf was gently lapping at the sand.  The photographer called us to our places.  And I tried not to cry.

The vacation was planned late in the summer to give us one last time to be together.  One last set of memories before my husband left for Iraq.

I was trying to tell myself that this photograph would be a reminder of my happy family.  But inside, I was wrestling with my greatest fear:  that this photograph might be the last image of the five of us together.

© The Lucky Mom

Through it all, I smiled.

We sat on the dune together, and walked at the water’s edge.  The photographer patiently captured the essence of each child, then seated me and my husband together.  With his arm around my shoulder we smiled for the camera, trying to forget why we were there.  She took the final shots of us separately, me last.

When the photos arrived in the mail a few days later, I was quite surprised at what I saw.  The smile on my face was not at all what I expected.  That day I felt afraid and anxious.  But the smile I saw in the photograph was not.

The smile in that photograph became part of me, and I wore it for the better part of the next year.  That smile kept from crying many times.  That smile meant everything would be alright.  That smile meant that I was, indeed, strong enough.


23 thoughts on “The Strong Smile

    1. Lisha @ The Lucky Mom Post author

      When I was younger I couldn’t. I was completely transparent. The discipline of composure came late for me. But between Katrina, cancer, and my husband’s deployment, now I’m a friggin’ rock. 🙂

  1. Pingback: Becoming brave | The Lucky Mom

  2. Kelly

    Hi there…I am a preschool teacher and I love your “memo’s from your child”. Can I use that as part of my preschool packet? I think every parent needs a copy of that. I will be sure to give credit to the good Dr. as well as his book.
    thank you, Kelly

    1. Lisha Post author

      As long as you give clear credit to Dr. Fontenelle. The words belong to him. If you’re going to do so, I’d suggest you purchase a copy of the book for your class library. Those are only a few of the hundreds of pages of wisdom from him. The “Memos from your Teenager” are even better! And even preschool children grow up to be teenagers!

      Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Transitioning Mom

    I love everything about this post! The way you expressed the your feelings in those moments (I could feel my stomach tighten) and the photo of you are nothing less than AMAZING!

    Great post, Lisha!
    Oh, and checking out a new writing community–thanks!

  4. Kristina

    This was beautiful. You captured your contradictory feelings perfectly.

    And thank you, and your husband, for your sacrifices to keep the rest of us safe. Thanks for sharing.

  5. idiosyncratic eye

    ‘The smile in that photograph became part of me, and I wore it for the better part of the next year. That smile kept from crying many times. That smile meant everything would be alright. That smile meant that I was, indeed, strong enough.’ – this was my favourite bit, I could really relate and you wrote it beautifully. 🙂

    1. Lisha Post author

      When I became an Army wife at the beautiful age of 22, I really had no idea what I was bargaining for. But we made it. Mr. Wonderful retired two years ago after 25 years of service.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  6. Barry

    Beautifully put… I have seen the picture a few times butnever imagined there was any pain behind it – it looks like a happy, contented Mom with her family. 🙂

    1. Lisha Post author

      I was, too. 🙂

      That’s one of the really great things about Write on Edge and other writing communities. They challenge you to write beyond what’s comfortable.


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