1, 2, 3… Smile!

(This story is a loose continuation from “An ancient wedding on the couch” posted two days ago.)

One evening of early March, after early supper, my mother calls me and my little brother to the living room of our tiny half-dilapidated apartment. She has her camera in her hands.

“Stand there, Sweeties,” she says and points behind the hinamatsuri doll set on the couch. “I will take some pictures of you and the dolls before I put the dolls away.”

Oh, here goes another photo session! I don’t like my mother’s photo session because she always gives us a lot of instructions until she takes one that she really likes. I’d rather continue playing with my brother in the other room, but of course, there is no way we can ignore our mother’s command.

My mother tells us to stand behind the couch, though in our tiny living room, the couch is tightly placed against the door to the balcony, and there is no “behind” to it. My brother and I squeeze ourselves in the narrow gap between the couch and the glass door.

“Great,” my mother says from behind her camera. “Now, smile!”

My brother and I smile normally. But that’s not satisfactory to my mother.

“Sweeties, where are your smiles?” she asks us as she rolls the film of her camera. “Your best smiles?”

To this, my brother quickly responds. He tilts his head on one side, shuts his eyes tightly and smiles from ear to ear. Whenever my mother tells him to smile his best smile, this is what he does. On his right, I simply broaden my smile. My mother is now happy.

“There we go! Keep smiling!”

A few photos are clicked. My mother is satisfied, and we are released from the photo session.

Either that evening or the next day, my little brother got admitted to the hospital to prepare for his heart surgery. By that time, the hinamatsuri dolls were gone from the couch of our tiny half-dilapidated apartment. My mother had stored them away for the next year before she left home to accompany my brother’s hospital stay.

Little did I know that that mundane photo session was going to be the last one where my brother and I would stand behind the hinamatsuri dolls together.