Every year, for 16 years straight, we have managed to take a family photo for the Christmas card. Sometimes it is the whole family of five, most of the time it is just the kids, and every now and then it includes one or two canines. This year was no exception and below is a quick glimpse of our “organized chaos” in 2013. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=711006615591054
The family photo for Christmas is not a unique tradition by any means, it is however one that I have fiercely protected year after year. Like many good ideas, and well meaning intentions, traditions for us have started and stopped over the years. For some inexplicable reason I remain adamant about keeping this tradition and it wasn’t until I was questioned about it this year, that I truly realized why.
Each year the photo is blown up to an 8×10 size and framed for the living room wall. Sixteen photos now proudly hang, some are great pictures and some, well, I would possibly retake them, if I could. It is not just the sequential marking of the passage of time that each photo represents, it is definitely something more.
One of my teenagers asked me, in that oh so delightful teenage tone, ”why do we have to do this every year?” I really had to think about my answer. The truth is, it is the story behind every photo, not so much the photo itself.
It is the full family version, taken at the local portrait studio, that has the parents laughing, but all three kids looking petrified. I explained to my children that their dear auntie was helping that year and that she was jumping up and down and making faces behind the cameraman. Obviously, by the blank stares on your little faces in the photo, you did not find it nearly as funny has your parents did.
There is the year, I thought putting all of you in a large Santa sack was a “cute” idea. Thankfully the picture was taken prior to the tipping over of the large sack causing heads to knock together and ending in tears.
There is the photo taken at the boardwalk of one of our lovely beaches. Look closely and you will see that everyone is freezing cold, red noses, watery eyes and hugging themselves. That is the year that your Papa died, unexpectedly, in October. That could have been the year that the photos stopped, but something made me decide that a picture by the ocean he loved was just what we needed. Too bad it is so chilly in December, in New England!
I showed my eldest child the very first Christmas photo. It was taken on the floor of her bedroom in our first apartment, a place she does not remember. Pre-digital days, this photo required 24 attempts on a roll of film that was rushed off to the pharmacy in the hope that one would come out okay. You took off your hat, the dog (Norman Bates) lost his bow, in some pictures you crawled away and in others he put his head down. Twenty-four takes and one success! I would later make a collage of these photos on one of the earliest versions of Photoshop with the help of a middle school student who was serving detention in my classroom.
My daughter now uses the photo as her facebook profile and my sons were intrigued by my willingness to let a student on detention “work off” his misbehaviors. I also had to explain how “rolls of film” worked and why you didn’t snap a photo of just anything.
So after wrestling with our dogs for the 2013 photo and reliving the history of past photos with my family, I was left thinking, when should I stop? When they go to college? When they have families of their own? Next year, when the boys enter high school?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that I don’t think I will stop. There will be a reason to be home from college for an afternoon, or to stop by when their work schedules get busy, or to visit when they have children of their own. It’s time for Mom’s Christmas Card Photo – a tradition she loves.