Our family portrait is worth a thousand words

The grass always seems to be greener on the other side of the septic tank. I envied the family that lived across the street; I believe the name was Jenkins. Their house was built in a strange style; it was not like any we had ever seen. They had brought the plans with them to Africa. My sister said the wife was English, but I could never tell, just by looking. They were the first white people I had seen in my life. Father went over once, to welcome them into our neighborhood. All we wanted to know when he came back was what their house looked like on the inside. He said they had not invited him in and Mr. Jenkins was not a big talker anyway.

The Jenkins had two pudgy children, a boy and a girl. They were not allowed to come out and play with us. But I guess they played with their own friends from school. They probably had many expensive toys. Their clothes were nicer too, imports from their own country I bet.

One Sunday, as we came back from church, running around and screeching like banshees, we saw the Jenkins outside their house. We slowed down and watched them at a distance, this was the closest we had seen them. As usual, they looked picture perfect. The English wife was asking her husband and children to hold hands, stand closer together and smile. She told them to say cheese, she made funny faces and made strange sounds, but no matter what she did, the three of them just stood there. The little girl looked like she would start bawling at any moment and the boy had looked like he was bravely going through a very uncomfortable procedure. And the father, well, he could have been holding hands with two strangers!

My family loved photographs. We had no camera of our own, but whenever the mobile cameraman came by with his cheap camera, and mother asked us to go outside and pose for one, the five of us would run out hooting and hollering with joy. Our father would grin and try to pull us all together so we could fit in the frame. We never looked as fine as the Jenkins did, but we had photos that we would laugh at for a lifetime.

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