a year of morning thanks
I read somewhere long ago that the man known as Squire Dickinson--the devout and austere father of Emily Dickinson--"was known, once, to have smiled." Most assuredly, he was a Calvinist.
And then there's always Mencken's ascerbic wit about Puritanism (which is to say, Calvinism) as the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere is having a good time.
Sometimes I wonder if even even a nominal adherence to Calvinism doesn't, all by itself, impede smiling. But then, I'm Dutch, too, and traditionally, the Dutch don't easily give their hearts away--at least not Dutch Calvinists. Hang around the Dutch Reformed long enough, and one might come to think that our favorite fruit is the prune.
But then, smiles can be faked. What's more, they too easily morph into smiley faces. Fake smiles are the self-righteous accessories of good Southern Baptists, not Great Plains Calvinists. We're cut from the same stock as those famous WPA Dust Bowl photographs.
Here's the deal. My son--bless his heart--has not been easy to photograph. He comes by that characteristic honestly; in fact, I can trace the penchant back into multidinous generations of Dutch Reformed sternness. Let's put it this way: he's not as easy to photograph as his seven-year-old niece, who can--if she wishes--drop whatever she's doing, put her chin in her hands, and look like a dream. Our son has traditionally had some trouble with the word cheese.
Sadly, my family suffers at the hands of a father, grandfather--whatever--who hauls out a camera at the drop of a hat. In fairness, no one likes his or her own pictures, right? The shot I attach to my profile on this blog is only a shadow. Most people hate their pictures--me too. Who wants to set themselves up for such pain?
Besides, I think it's only right that Calvinists don't pose well. A pose is, by definition, something of a lie. Ask people to pose, and you're acting them to display actual falsehood.
Whatever. I'm trying to be nice. Here's the bottom line: traditionally, our son doesn't pose well.
But then, last week my mother called. "I just love that picture you sent of David and Kristina," she told us. "It's just beautiful. They're so cute with their stocking caps." (Fortunately, my son won't read this; he'd skin me alive.)
But get this--my mother is right. They are cute. It is a sweet picture.
Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread, so I'm not going to push this too far; I am, after all, his father. But here's an outline of this practiced photographer's armchair theory on all this.
Oddly enough, this young lady has made him a better subject for the camera. Like I said, I'm not going to speculate how or why. All I know is that right now he's far better at smiling, maybe because--sheer speculation on my part--I don't think he's posing.
Therefore, even though he's smiling, his father says he's still a Calvinist.