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The Christmas aftermath and a deathly cold have addled my brain. I have mixed up our blog order. This blog matches Gill’s  ‘Say Cheese’ from yesterday and the one that will appear by Gill on Thursday will match mine from Monday, Jan. 4. Sorry for the confusion! Enjoy…

Gill has lived in Britain too long. She has seen the wonderful old buildings belonging to    the aristocracy, the universities rife with portraits of the founders of the institutions, the people who have generously funded them. I’m sure these pictures and paintings go back centuries. They add a certain air of decorum and gravitas to the halls they grace.

And so, she came up with the brilliant plan of having our own version of a portrait done.Unfortunately, the Queen’s official photographer was unavailable on such short notice and, truth be told, we were even shorter on the cash it would have taken for her to deign to consider us as clients. (Mary McCartney, daughter of Sir Paul did the most recent  photos of Her Majesty. While Crazy D and Mary have in common the fact that they were both associated with rock bands — one successful, the other doomed to be forgotten in my basement– I sensed the bond was too tenuous to exploit.)

Sears Portrait Studio it would be as our Plan B. Gill booked on the Internet from Britain. Unaware of any of these machinations amongst my three kids, I agreed when Gill’s terse order came via email:”Be ready at 11 on the 24th and look cute!”

On the morning of the 24th, I was told of the plan. In truth, when Crazy D let slip something about Sears, I clued in. I didn’t just come in on a turnip truck. I remembered how, when they were young, I forced them to have a family photo taken at the same Sears studio. And I suspect, with my health issues recently, Gill had it in the back of her mind that we might not have too many opportunities to all be together at the same time to commemorate our adult look. (At least a picture where we still have some hair that isn’t grey, are not using walkers, and our teeth are still intact. I speak of the children, of course, not me. The money I spend at the beauty salon assures that my hair will never be grey. Likewise with the two dentists I feature. And as long as I can still fit my orthotics in my stilettos, I’m good to go. Walkers are for wimps.) All the pictures we have to this point are taken by one of us and so one person is always missing — physically. The rest of us may be missing mentally at the moment of the flash.

Li’l Sis, Gill and I arrived at the mall parking lot to see Crazy D trudging across the walkway in front of our car, a garment bag slung over his shoulder. He had brought the $2000 suit he recently purchased for his best friend’s wedding. I haven’t seen him in a suit (especially not an expensive one) since he was 13 and had to attend a friend’s Bar Mitzvah.

“Oh, he didn’t!”” Gill yelled. “I can’t believe he’s getting all dressed up! He’s gonna make the rest of us look like bums!”

The Pig glared from the back seat. She had wanted to drive shotgun but was told her usual co-pilot credentials didn’t extend to freeway driving. Worse than that, L’il Sis hadn’t asked if it was okay to bring a dog to the portrait studio. I think, if grilled, we’d all admit we KNEW it wasn’t, but we operate under the theory that it’s always better to apologize later than ask permission before.  A moot point anyway since, if she couldn’t go, we weren’t going! As we skulked our way to the studio, hiding between rows of mens’ slacks and shirts, The Pig hidden, nobody stopped us. We must have looked determined and possibly mildly threatening. At least crazy.

The lovely photographer blanched when she saw Piggy. “But you can’t…”she started to say.

“Oh, but I booked over the Internet from the UK and then my sister tried to call to confirm but couldn’t ever get through to talk to anyone”. (Ergo, it’s THEIR fault The Pig was there.)

“Please, couldn’t you just make this wee exception?” we asked pathetically. “She is a member of our family, really the leader of our pack if you have to know…”

Then L’il Sis piped up, in her most anguished, heart-wrenching tone:”I’m barren, you know!” (She isn’t and we all tried to keep a straight face while realizing her little declaration was the perfect thing. Who could argue with her ‘despair’? I apologize to any women who might find this offensive, but this is a beloved BEAGLE we’re talking about — a beagle who’s had cancer, has now heart problems and has a boob that needs its own bra to keep it from dragging on the ground…probably cancerous as well. Hopefully we can be forgiven our politically incorrect flub.)

The girl was toast. “Okay, she said pleasantly. I suspect she admired our chutzpah…that or she thought that if we were this mentally challenged, we needed all the help and kindness we could get.

Crazy D waltzed in — after many comments from this room of four women about how long it takes a man to get dressed, looking like he stepped right out of GQ. Gill, L’il Sis and I almost fainted. “We’ve never seen you in a suit!”

He looked, with his already greying hair and exquisite outfit with silk tie, like The Dad in the family.Even The Pig seemed to recognize that he now truly WAS her Alpha and you could almost see the level of respect grow in her eyes.

There were many silly poses, with The Pig and Crazy D running a close competition for most photogenic. The photographer soon joined in our antics and we felt, by the time we left 15 minutes later, we had a new friend for life. And The Pig had been perfectly behaved, turning her head when asked, sitting, posing with her best side (the one that hid her huge right teat)…she was, the photographer admitted, much more co-operative than most of the children she works with. But of course, The Pig already had that figured out.

We again skulked as nonchalantly as possible, through the store to the exit door, The Pig between us and the racks of clothes. At one point, she started to have a ‘backward sneeze’, a phenomenon common in older dogs wherein they seem to be choking and gasping for breath. Not exactly what a stealthy ‘criminal’ trying to beat a hasty retreat should do. We dragged her deeper into the mens’ pants until she recovered and then quickly resumed our exit. Apart from a few strange looks from other customers, there were no cries to “Get that beast out of the store…that’s not allowed!”

I can only hope some poor security officer  having to work on Christmas day had his day brightened when he checked the footage for that day and saw The Pig, tail high and jaunty, head held proudly, marching through the store on her way to having her picture professionally taken with her family in tow.  Well, if Queen Elizabeth can be photographed with her corgis, The Pig can be photographed with us.

Too bad we don’t have an old abbey or castle in which to display our fantastic new family portraits.