What Secrets Can A Picture Tell?

When I heard that  Clay Morgan and Leanne Shirtliffe were playing “School Photo Day,” I decided to get in on the action. But as I sifted through my class pictures and yearbook photo ops, I had trouble choosing. Should I go with one from the “I look like a bowl-headed boy” era, or from the huge selection of “my big-hair and eyebrows are battling for camera time” decade?

Instead, I opted for a blurry candid from the “normal”…day. It’s one of my favorites, actually, and not because I’m rockin’ the plaid like no other, or because of the hot ride in the background. No. It’s because of secrets.

Here’s my choice (I’m the shorty in the middle):

This picture was taken on the first day of first grade at my new school. The girl on the left looks like she’s leaning in to tell me something very important (we will disregard the fact that she also appears to be digging for gold). It’s not clear if I’m listening or in some polyester-induced haze, but I’ve always wondered: What was she saying?

Presumably, we didn’t know each other very well, and even though little girls can become BFF’s in the time that it takes to link pinkies and spit, this seems like more of a conspiratorial conversation.

Was she sharing insider information on our teacher?

“I’ve heard  Mrs. Lawrence uses chinese water torture.”

Was she telling me about one of our new classmates?

“Lice. Definitely lice.”

Or, was she disclosing “da rules” of the school?

“One bathroom break. One. I recommend withholding fluids.”

Whatever she said, I look worried.

I can remember being a little nervous that day — walking to school with butterflies bouncing around from stomach to throat, and clutching that brown envelope of “very important papers” like it held the Strawberry Shortcake doll I had been longing for all my life.

Yes, for some reason, I don’t think she was sharing a funny story. If only I could remember…

Still, I love these kinds of pictures — where you’ve captured something unstaged and in the moment. So much better than the cheesy grins and uncomfortable stares. These types of pictures are puzzles. They are stories.

They are secrets shared.


And, so you don’t worry that I was too serious for a six-year-old, here’s a better representation of my normal state during childhood:

Thank goodness for the nose job.


If you have a blog or website, feel free to post your own picture and link up here, or at any of the participating sites. Have fun!

Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

46 thoughts on “What Secrets Can A Picture Tell?”

  1. Awwww, you were sooo cute! Although, in pic one you do look worried, as you say. I’m debating if I want to join in the fun! Now I’ll go check the others!


  2. What a great picture, and great idea for a blog post!!! If I only weren’t so paranoid about my picture on the internet, I might give it a go. In fact, perhaps I could get over my paranoia for just one blog post… 🙂


    1. Thank you regarding the picture, and yes, Leanne is the mastermind of this fab prompt.

      If you post an early-enough picture, no one of present-day would even recognize you. I say, go for it!


  3. Great pics and love the perspective. Nice twist on School Photo Day. Also, thanks for helping a few more people understand my crossdressing past. Apparently I don’t have secrets like the little gold digger in plaid.


  4. I think my favorite part of that picture (other than how adorable all three of you were!) is the gleam of light coming from the fabulous tan/beige/brownish/yellowish station wagon in the background (Chevy Kingswood Estate?). Stylin’.

    I love the stories that pictures tell and I also love the idea that these stories are secrets that even the people in the picture don’t always remember.

    Great photos, great post! Mine’s over at http://asalinguist.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/a-portrait-of-the-linguist-as-a-young-dorky-girl/


    1. Thank you for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comments — I’ll pop over to your place in a minute.

      Yep, there’s no missing that car!

      Oh, and I should mention that the cute little girl on the right and I eventually became very good friends, and still are today 🙂


  5. Love this post. So glad I finally made it over here. You are too cute. And the nose job is barely noticeable. 😉


  6. This made my night. How very dear an image. And to know a Strawberry Shortcake doll fits in to the picture. Do you know I found my sister’s doll the last time I was home and the dern thing STILL smelled? And, oh yeah, I inhaled.


  7. Amanda, you’ve got quite the imagination! I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to conjure up such possibilties for this conversation. Love it! This school photo day has been a blast and a great way to connect to new folks.

    I posted about the glorious marching band days: http://www.newlifecalu.com/?p=734.

    Thanks for sharing your memories!


    1. I like the idea of letting these photos spark the imagination. It’s great fodder for generating stories. Good suggestion.


  8. I loved the pictures and your story. I especially liked the last one (before your nose job ;))

    You are much braver than I am – all of my childhood pictures will remain hidden. My awkward phase (between birth and sixteen years) must not be seen by anyone!


  9. What a lovely photo of you and your friends on your first day of school. I actually prefer those photos where no-one knows that some one is taking a photograph…people don’t look as if they’re having their photo taken..and more ‘real’, life like I suppose. Their expressions are far more realistic in my mind.


  10. Oh, Amanda … this made me laugh out loud (loudly). I love your sense of humor and I love the idea of pulling out old childhood photos. Mine are all with my mom in PA; I must request some of them. I’m fascinated by the things we can capture in photos – they provide so much inspiration for our writing minds!



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