Saturday morning found me heading north on I-5 by 8:30 a.m. I needed to be in Ballard by 10:00 a.m. According to Mapquest, the journey would take an hour and twelve minutes and I did not want to be late.
Traffic through Seattle was light, despite the pockets of fog which obscured the city skyline. I concentrated on staying in the correct lane, which is tricky with all the sudden “Exit Only” signs as you hurtle along the freeway.
I found the house (“last of three mid-century brick homes on the right”) easily, but since it was only 9:30 a.m., I retraced my route and stopped at a Fred Meyer where I bought a People magazine and gum. By the time I returned to the house, it was 9:59 a.m.
I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. Actually, Kathryn may have opened it before I knocked, come to think of it. Both she and Tara welcomed me as if I were a friend, not simply the subject of the photo shoot they’d been hired to do. They both had shoulder length brown hair, teeth that would make any dentist proud and wide-open smiles.
I felt at ease, which surprised me. I kept waiting to feel nerves, to blurt out something stupid, to develop a facial tic. But I didn’t. Kathryn suggested we first look at the clothing she bought and so I followed her down a short hallway to a bedroom. The bed had an array of blue tops and two pairs of pants, one gray with pin-striping and one khaki. She draped two shirts over the pants and asked me to try them on. “They want to show off your figure,” she said.
I joked that I’d brought industrial strength undergarments, so she laughed. It was a good thing I’d brought them, let’s just say.
So, we decided on an outfit. (Rather, they decided. I just followed their suggestions.)
Then, Tara began her magic. We sat facing each other while she smeared and dabbed and painted on my face. I couldn’t help but notice her toothpaste-commercial perfect teeth. She wore little make-up, if any, but had a dazzling smile and a zest for her job.
And so we made small-talk for an hour and a half while she concealed and enhanced and made me look natural.
Tara mentioned she was 44 years old, though I never would have guessed that from looking at her. She told me that she’d worked in road construction and as a model earlier in her life. Kathryn chatted, too, while she set up lights and a backdrop and checked settings on her camera. She occasionally disappeared into the kitchen to fuss over her elderly, immobile dog.
I am sure I was just a job to them, but I savored the chance to glimpse into these lives so different from mine, and yet parallel in some ways. (We live in the same area. We are similar ages. We’ve found work we’re passionate about. We are all mothers.)
The worst part, of course, was standing in front of the camera, trying to look natural, happy and photogenic. Kathryn would crack a joke or I’d relay a story or Tara would grin her perfect smile and I’ve laugh and the camera would click. Then, “okay, relax left leg . . . chin forward and down . . . can you clasp your hands behind your back?” Or they’d both rush at me to smooth my hair or fiddle with my pant legs or pull up my sleeves ever so slightly.
Oh! And the funny this is that I didn’t wear my newly purchased mid-rise, boot-cut, lighter-washed jeans or my new boots . . . because they were brown. I wore Kathryn’s black boots which happened to be my size.
So, I tried to grin. Kathryn stood on a little stool, so I told her about having my son stand on a ladder to take a picture of me from above so I’d look thinner. (She wore a wide black belt with a sturdy silver buckle around her size-8 jeans and a black shirt. Bare feet. I doubt she’s ever insisted someone stand on a ladder to take a picture of her so she looks thinner!)
I stood in her living room, a clutter-free, bright, cheery room with a giant photographer’s light on my right and a fill-light reflector (I think that’s what it’s called) on my left. Pinkish rug under my feet, faintly Asian themed. Luminous wood floors, not a hint of dust anywhere.
Our lives intersected in those three hours and then, she was done. I changed back into my baggy black shirt and lavender sweater and Gap jeans and thanked them. As we said good-bye, Tara said, “You are so pretty,” which I took with a grain of salt since she’d told me earlier about seeing beauty in whatever is before her. (Which is a lovely way to view the world, I have to say.)
All in all, I have to say that meeting both Kathryn, the photographer, and Tara, the make-up artist, was a great pleasure and I’m not just saying that because I told them I write a blog and they may someday find this. Honestly, spending a Saturday morning with strangers in a Ballard brick home was fun. Who’d have guessed?
(She showed me one picture in her digital camera and I felt revolted, but perhaps they’ll Photoshop me and I’ll be unrecognizable and as pretty as Tara said. And I will tell you where you can see those pictures, too, at a later date. I promise.)