“Now do a silly one.” It was a simple enough request. I’d been silly before. Like the time I took the photo of Prince Charles from mother’s mantle and held it to my face as the children watched The Lion King. Simba was singing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,’ and I pretended as though I, as Prince Charles, had been the one singing and not the talking lion cub. That was a hoot. That was silly of me.
“Even just a smile this time, Daddy.” the photographer asked again. I thought of that moment but couldn’t think of what face I had made underneath mother’s photograph, only Charles’ stoic jowls on top of mine.
The breath from the children’s sighs, one on either side of me and all of us stomach down as we rested on our elbows at the photographer’s request, moved a piece of lint across the floor. Somewhere I have reserves of silliness stored away, like canned goods in a bomb shelter. I just had to look. I made my eyes wide, as wide as I could until my vision blurred and began to sting. I forced my lips into one another until the top flipped over the bottom like rams fighting for a mate. The children looked at me and then back to the photographer, their own tiny faces horribly contorted with glee. “Sure, that’s great, Daddy. Now on three…”