It’s that time of year again! You know what time I’m talking about …. wacky, Christmas-Card-group-photo time! Doesn’t every family follow this delightful holiday tradition?
I’m pretty sure my parents invented the Christmas Card photo. Even before my older sister and I were able to sit up and smile they’d stuff us in little red mummy wraps, prop us up in a chair and snap away. The first few years of photos show two skinny little girls in matching outfits wearing a deer-caught-in-the-headlight grin. As we grew older my parents got a bit more creative. One year we were photographed sitting on Santa’s lap. Another year we were shown roasting our little butts off on the hearth of a crackling fireplace. By the time my brother came along my sister and I were missing several front teeth. That year Mom and Dad laid Robert tummy side-down on their bed and told my sister and I to lay beside him facing the camera. We looked like three big toothless grinning pumpkin-heads.
Every year we had to suffer through several different holiday-themed photo sessions. Us reading “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Us reenacting some sappy Christmas play. Us making a snowman. Us stringing colorful lights on the tree. I’m sure you get the idea. By the time my sister and I hit our teens I didn’t want anything to do with being in front of a camera. A bad case of teenage acne probably had a little something to do with it, or maybe it was the dreaded demonic red-eye from the primitive flash on the Kodak Instamatic? Either way, I did my best to show as little of my face as possible, which resulted in us having to take even more pictures!
There were trial photos of us peeking out from behind a shower curtain and us casually lounging in the bed of a pickup truck. (Yeah. I still don’t get the holiday connection there …) There were pictures of us out on the deck, pictures of us by the barn, pictures of us on skis and pictures of us hitting, poking, elbowing and making bunny ears on each other. There are pictures of us with Cher hair, perms, pixies, crew cuts, shags, mullets, Dorthy Hamils, Fabios and Farrah Faucet feathers. We’re shown wearing tight sweaters, flannel shirts (me) knee-high boots (me again) hip-huggers, jeans, gypsy skirts, jumpsuits, neck scarves, beads and Army jackets. If nothing else, our annual photo shoot is a historical catalog of fashion trends from the late 60’s through the 70’s.
Mom had to get even more creative when my older sister and I reached the age were we were ready to leave home for school and careers. Her answer to that dilemma was to take two separate late summer photos, then cut and paste them together. Then she would take a photo of that photo. Ahem. This was 30 years before Photoshop, so the end result was a picture of two kids in semi-decent focus next to a cutout of two very blurred kids. Good times! Eventually it got to the point where the older kids were married and/or living in other states and the younger two were here, there and everywhere. No matter. Mom just waited until everyone showed up for Thanksgiving, then after downing several alcoholic beverages she would mutter something under her breath about taking a photo and vanish … only to reappear with camera in hand. Gotcha!
I thought I’d finally dodged the family photo bullet when I left home for good, so imagine my horror that first Thanksgiving when my future mother-in-law held up her camera and announced it was time to take the annual family portrait. And so the tradition continues. It’s been 25 years of agony and goofiness as we jockey to get the perfect holiday group shot. This year was no different except for one minor detail: I was behind the camera instead of in front of it!
I can live with that!