Jack, age 12
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma (1987)
This photo is more about my mom than about me. As you can see, I was an aspiring decorator in my mother's classroom at age 12. I loved any holiday, and we had decorations for all of them, but Christmas took the cake.
Only other teachers' kids would truly understand the power of feeling like you OWNED the building.
I have such a clear memory of the day this picture was taken.
I BEGGED my mom to let me decorate her room for the holiday, and of course, she let me. Why I chose to wrap myself up in all this tinsel like the love child of Lady Gaga and Jayne Mansfield, I don't know.
I remember performing a little dance around the room to some bad 80's music, for all of the other teachers' kids. Getting other people to laugh was a constant coping mechanism for me, and I remember consciously thinking to myself:
"They can't hit you if they're laughing - even if it's AT you."
My mom came in the room to witness the scene, thought it was hilarious as always, grabbed her camera, and took a picture. She always pushed me to try new things, but never deterred me from being myself, which may have included a (very, very short) stint as a local fashion model at age 13.
Now as a happy gay man in my early 30's I can't tell you how lucky I was to have a mom that just loved me, for all I brought to the table. Even in Oklahoma.
As much as middle or high school can totally suck, the message I can leave with those reading this small snippet of my life is:
Love yourself in the now, and for all that you bring to the table.
A testament to that is I can now OWN this picture, and love me for who I have always been. Though I am a bit ashamed of the ugly cable knit sweater...