An Unexpected Showstopper

H! I can remember - or fancy I can remember - crying like that! The abandon of it! A blatant, face-creasing, cavern-mouthed bawl. A no-holds- barred, rip-roaring cataclysm of a cry. ``COMFORT ME! C-O-M-F-O-R-T M-E NOW!''

Yes, I was a crybaby and I loved it. The slightest pretext and I would milk it to the full....

My schoolteacher wife glanced hastily at this photograph. ``There's always one who does not want to be there.'' She was talking in general, I presume, of children positioned on a row of chairs on a platform and required to sing before an invited audience. That can be quite a test, up there, out front, performing.

``But hasn't he caught his hand between the chairs?'' I hazarded.

``Oh ... maybe.''

Well, whatever the problem, the four children to the right and left of him are a study in reactive states and stages. The two bigger ones, (far left, far right), are still singing strongly. In fact, I suspect their voices are raised with extra fortissimo to drown out the competition.

The little girl on our screamer's right has had to lower her eyes to keep her concentration. The little boy on our caterwauling infant's left is still mid-song, but only just. His note has already faltered. Perhaps he is ready to ululate, too.

After all, you join in singing, so why not join in wailing? It's all a performance, one way or the other.

One thing I like about this photograph is that it illustrates universality. Babies are babies the world over; babyhood knows not race nor creed. We all, everywhere, sing. We all, everywhere, cry.

This picture has been slotted into the photograph series ``Lens and Light.'' But it really belongs under a different banner: ``Time and Place.'' The photographer was, as any photographer worth his/her salt should always be, in just the right place at just the right time. Oh - and remembered to press the button.

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