A Girl, a Guinea Pig, and the Best Prom Picture of All Time

Let’s all hop in our Super Happy Fun-Time Machine and travel allllllllllllllllll the way back to that golden era of human civilization: the late 90s.  It was May 1998. Will Smith had just shared the secret of how to get jiggy with it; the nation was trying to put the pieces of their broken lives back together as Seinfeld came to an end; and I was sitting on the floor of my living room painting my nails before heading out the door to my senior prom.  Oh hey, look!  There I am!


My mom and I were getting ready to leave to meet my friends across town for pictures.  All I had left to do was to get dressed, grab my overnight bag and fancy purse, and get in the car.  I did that wavey-thing girls to do get their nails to dry faster, then ran to my tiny bedroom to get dressed.  I came out of my room, ready to impress my boyfriend (and future husband) with how great I looked.  Hair curled, tiara in place, makeup perfect, hand resting on the front door handle when I remembered.  I looked at my mom and said the words that must have made her want to throttle my faux jewel-encrusted throat:

“Where’s Piggy?”


Piggy was my beloved guinea pig.  He was more dog than pig, really.  He was fat and happy and generally a delightful little guy.  When I was home, I would let him roam the house on his own.  Piggy would just trundle on down the hallway, giving you a few squeaks as he waddled past.  He rarely got into trouble or became lost, preferring to hang around the dog food bowl or the corner of the living room.

Except that on this day, of all days, he was kind of lost.

You see, I didn’t really have too much time between getting my hair done and leaving for the dance.  But I knew I would be gone all night and most of the next day, and I felt bad that poor Piggy would be stuck in his cage for so long, so I decided to let him run around while I got ready to go.

It was about five minutes before I had to be at my friend’s house for pictures, and I was NOT going to miss it.  The entire family was enlisted in the Search for Piggy.  Since I was spending the night at another friend’s house, it was imperative that Piggy be returned to his cage before I left.  How the hell a two-pound, eight-inch rodent could be so hard for four people to find in a two-bedroom suburban bungalow, I have no fucking idea.  I do know that the amount of time it takes to locate said critter and return him to his comfortable cage is about the same amount of time it takes for a hormonal, extremely well-dressed seventeen-year-old girl to start believing that all her friends are about to leave for the prom without her and she’ll be the only person missing in the pictures and THIS JUST CAN’T BE HAPPENING WE NEED TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY.

Finally, Piggy was safe in his cage and I dramatically huffed my fancy ass out the door towards the car.  At this point, my mother said the words that made me want to throttle her:

“Can we take a few pictures before we leave?”

I turned around and looked at my mother.  My mother, who sewed a pink crepe drawstring purse for me when I couldn’t find a purse that matched my dress.  My mother who only raised one daughter, who drove her to spelling bees and birthday parties and sat through rainy marching band competitions.  My mother who, having unknowingly raised a founding member of the Thrift Store Jet-Set, discovered she wouldn’t be shopping with her only daughter for a prom dress the day that girl brought home a $9 vintage dress found at the local Salvation Army store.  My mother, who just spend the last fifteen fucking minutes searching her house for a goddamn guinea pig that her presumably intelligent daughter decided to let run around unsupervised shortly before she had to leave for a major event.

I turned around and looked at my mother, and she knew me well enough to be ready to snap a picture.

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Did she really think I might pose, or was she just poking a frilly pink bear with a stick?  I’m not sure.  I know that sometimes you’re lucky enough to perfectly capture moments in time with your children.  You get a select few snapshots that tell the story, good and bad, of who that little person was, is, and came to be.


Hop back into the Super Happy Fun Times Machine and travel forward fifteen years to September 2013.  That sassy teenager stood in the kitchen of her own house, with her own exasperated daughter.  The mother had already taken about fifty pictures, and promised that she had absolutely, positively taken her last picture, promise.  As the girl’s hand rested on the handle of the door, ready to finally leave for her first day of school, her mother said the words that made the little girl want to throttle her mother:

“Can I take just one more picture?”

And somehow, without thinking, that teenager, now a mother herself, knew to be ready.

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This post is written for NickMom in conjunction with their paid sponsorship of the BlogU blog conference.  All snotty attitudes and poor teenage decisions are my own.

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16 Responses to A Girl, a Guinea Pig, and the Best Prom Picture of All Time

  1. Shirley says:

    Love this Janel!
    Having raised two girls, I think I know that expression !

  2. I’ve seen that photo a number of times, and loved it always, but hearing the story behind it is better than 1,000 proms (or, replace “proms” with something that doesn’t suck). But the fact that you got a twin photo of your own little? Unbelievably perfect.

  3. anna says:

    oh the full circle of it all is just too awesome.

  4. Jessica says:

    Oh I love this so much. I think we could make and Attitude Album out of all the photos of me glaring at my parents. And you had a pet named Piggy? How did I not know this?

  5. Teri says:

    Oh my God I love that face!! I see that face ALL the TIME from my 16 year old. But I have to admit I loved the description you gave of mom, driving you all around, sewing your purse, sitting through band competitions, because that’s me (well, except the sewing thing, screw that). I am your mom, only instead of being YOUR mom, I’m 16’s mom and she gives me that look daily.

    By the way, I’m glad you found Piggy.

  6. I love this so much. Seriously. It’s awesome!

  7. Hillary says:

    That picture is worth millions. Also, how cool were you to shop at a thrift store. Such a hipster…

  8. I cannot even handle the awesome. The dress is awesome. The face is awesome. The hamster story is TOTALLY awesome.

  9. Sorry, guinea pig. I’m not good with my rodent classifications.

  10. You did Molly Ringwald better than Molly Ringwald. I love that picture and now I love this story. Ellen

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