What’s in a (senior) portrait?

When you hear someone mention a senior portrait, what do you imagine?

Do you see the Pinterest version, a blonde, perfectly made-up teen looking over her shoulder dreamily while strolling along abandoned railroad tracks?

Or perhaps you picture a tiny image, lost among rows of other stiff-looking smiles on page 172 of your high school yearbook?

I picture myself in an apple tree.

The memory is tied to a picture of me, taken by my mom in the fall of my senior year. I’m at our family’s favorite pick-your-own orchard, and I’ve climbed up to reach a particularly perfect piece of fruit.

In the image, I’m lit up, not just by the afternoon sun filtering through the trees, but from within. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and I’m surrounded by my favorite people. I’ll always love that image, and the memory that it helped cement in my mind forever.

I have a yearbook photo, too, of course. It has a blue background and a black cape to make me look as if I was wearing a formal dress. But the natural way that photo from the orchard came to be makes that image much more special. I was enjoying myself, and I looked down from the tree and smiled, and snap! There was that moment.

But that snapshot in the apple orchard is more of a senior portrait, to me, than the professional one. When I see it, I’m reminded of how hopeful, nervous, and excited I felt. High school was, in a lot of ways, an awkward time. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to appreciate all the things that went right during that part of my life.

A lot of them are things I can’t get back, like living under one roof with my parents and three siblings. But when I think about my senior portrait, I’m transported back.