EVER wonder how it would feel to be featured on a calendar? Miss October? Miss April?
It was never high on my list of fantasies, but I did think about various photographs I've taken over the years -- the artful shot of China's Great Wall, that early Saturday morning view of Fells Point looking like a Caribbean waterfront village, the almost conceptual patterns created by industrial architecture in Locust Point, the shot of rope coiled on the stern of a tug.
You get the picture. I thought of myself as artistic and in my time as a reporter and editor, I fancied myself as especially appreciative of professional photographers' work. Maybe I'd have a show sometime, I thought.
So it is with some irony that I find my very first picture has been published -- and it's on a calendar. And it's the oldest month of this new year -- December. And it's a picture I've been waiting 15 years to do something with.
It's a picture of my then-2-year-old daughter scrunching her face into the kind of expression that my parents used to look at and say, "Don't do that; your face will freeze!" Of course, there are 11 months besides December, and probably those photographers had a host of fancy equipment, filters and lighting. But in the days when my now-17-year-old daughter was 2, I was working with the most basic of equipment.
My capturing this particular expression has not to do with camera expertise but with an important child-raising rule of thumb: Mothers have a sixth sense about when a child has turned a normally placid face into a rubber mask. Instead of saying the tried and useless -- "Don't do that!" -- I snapped the camera's shutter.
When I heard the Ronald McDonald House calendar contest was looking for pictures celebrating the spirit of children, I was attracted by the first prize. It was a $1,000 shopping spree -- something I could enjoy and figured my daughter (away working as a camp counselor in West Virginia) might not find out about until I had raced to the store and spent the bounty on fancy new clothes. It was little enough pay-back for those years of doctoring skinned knees, ministering to shattered dreams and making orange-iced, M&M cupcakes for the Brownie troop's Halloween parties.
But when I found out my picture won an honorable mention, you would have thought I had won the lottery. I was glad then that instead of taking the sterling silver when my husband and I divided our household years ago, I had taken away hundreds of photographs of the children.
The calendar is at local McDonald's (with proceeds supporting the Ronald McDonald House), but my daughter's face won't be uncovered until almost 1993. Meanwhile, Happy Leap Year.
Sara Kate Moriarty is a Baltimore writer. *