For the past thirty years, I've been sending Christmas cards with pictures of my family. It began with our first child, and year by year, as our family grew, we continued to make it happen. When the children were little, the photo sessions looked like a circus of monkeys, and I was their ringleader. By the time we had finished, I had used my whole arsenal of "Mom-Weapons": Guilt, Bribes, and Threats. John and I would be shell-shocked in the aftermath, wondering how other families made it look so easy. How were they "Picture Perfect"? Meanwhile, the kids jumped on the beds while enjoying the chocolate fondue bribe.
No one informed me those were the easy days. The greater challenge came a few years later as the older children began to scatter. Pinpointing a time when everyone could be in the photo became nearly impossible. But this year, everyone would be in Savannah for about 12 hours together during Thanksgiving break before going their separate ways, and I snagged that time.
I sent a message on our family group chat inviting everyone to come to our house for family pictures at 5:00. To make the offer more enticing, I even created a cute image using Canva and offered to host dinner afterwards. I told myself I now had grown children, and this would be easy.
Still, the memories of Christmas Pictures Past plagued my brain as that day approached. I reminisced about our past challenges. There was the year one child was studying abroad in Italy, and we had to order a cardboard cut-out of her that we all gathered around. There was the year we all were battling a stomach virus while trying to smile. Then there was the year I thought my white, fuzzy socks wouldn’t show in the picture…they did. But no matter the obstacle, we always got one picture that we decided wouldn’t show the true craziness of our family.
Does everyone go through this madness to catch that one shot of our happy family to send to my family and friends? And why? Does anyone really look at those cards anyway? Yes. They do. I know this because I am one of those people. I look at each card I receive. I study them. I love to see how much your children have grown, and I actually love to see the imperfections. The forced smiles. The little boy whose shirt is untucked because he only wants to go play. And even the mom’s white socks. That’s life. That’s reality. That’s a family.
This year's photo session DID happen. And low and behold, when we walked to the chosen spot behind the house for the picture, the sky was filled with a rainbow, a peace offering from picture’s past. And peaceful it was. There was no yelling or screaming. My children were laughing with each other. They were fixing each other’s hair and taking care of one another. We all took our time. We laughed. We tickled the little grandkids. We had fun. The people you see in this year’s picture are not just putting on a happy face; they are genuinely happy. It only took us thirty years, but we did it, and I’m so proud!
I can’t wait to get your family’s Christmas picture in the mail. Please know that I understand the effort you made for that card, and I appreciate it.
Merry Christmas! From my great big family to yours.