Originally published by HerWord.com on December 11, 2012
Each year, when the holiday season comes, I feel the urge to bury my head in sand. Now, I must state categorically that I love Christmas and I look forward to it all year long. But once I remember what comes along with the season, I start to hyperventilate. My heart does this little hop-and-skip routine that’s got more to do with anxiety than a real cardiac event. I lose the unflappably sunny disposition that I keep all year round.
Oh, yes, you should hear me bellyache about everything! I worry about the budget I get to work with. *grumble grumble* I complain about all the work required to set up holiday decorations, only nine months after I’ve taken them down. *grumble grumble* I moan about all the cooking and cleaning I have to do, my poor hands and knees grousing from the labor. *grumble grumble* I do admit, however, that twenty-one years of doing Christmas in this family have taught me to enjoy the occasion, occasional mishaps, screw-ups, and all. Yet even as I try to overcome all the angst with a focus on the joys of the season, there is still one thing that keeps me up most nights when the holidays beckon.
Family portrait time. *shudders*
When the holidays come, I feel the burden of my family ambitions looming large over me. It doesn’t help that I am alone in this pursuit as I am always vetoed by the male members of my family in this matter. And Facebook just about makes things worse for me! Starting right after Halloween, my news feed becomes a nonstop online album of family holiday pictures; I can’t get away from them!
Many of my friends now do it yearly as a family tradition. They wisely book photographers, picture companies, and events management services months ahead of time. They plan their poses in advance, as well as outfits, hairstyles, and themes. Oh, I love it when I see pictures of them wearing the same outfits- one year, they’re in all white; the next, in red shirts and blue jeans. One seven-member family had a picture of them wearing shirts in the colors of the rainbow- ROY G BIV. How cool is that?
I can’t compete, honestly, and it isn’t for lack of trying. When it comes to pictures of my family, I end up with crap most of the time. I never end up with the pictures I always imagine in my head- with sunny smiles, elegant poise, perfect framing and background. Most of the time, just getting us all in one frame is hard enough.
I remember one Christmas years ago when I took on the task of booking an appointment for the family portraits. It was an investment on memories, I explained to my husband, as I justified the expense of hiring a professional photographer to take pictures in-studio and on location. It wasn’t exactly a cheap investment and my husband started loudly complaining when I added on the cost of outfits and props. When it came to the point of “almost” no-return (a couple of days before we were supposed to pay the fees), however, everything started to fall apart. One of the boys (hint: it may be Alphonse) refused to wear the matching new royal Oxford pastel blue dress shirt with the button down collar that I purchased specifically for the occasion. When we managed to put it on him, creases and all, he bobbed his head and neck up and down like a turkey, trying to make as little skin contact as possible. A few minutes later, the button down collar turned into a little snip of cloth he waved in the air as he ripped his shirt to shreds.
At my sister’s wedding, which, incidentally, fell within the holidays, we got all dolled up and dressed for the occasion. It was a perfect time to take a photo, that is, until one little boss (hint: it may be Alphonse) took off his barong and wiped it across the floor and walls of the San Agustin Church. The only things he wanted to wear were a pair of khaki jumpers and orange sandals! Poof! There goes the family picture again.
I guess my obsession with family portraits has affected my family. A couple of years ago, one of us (hint: it may be Alphonse) developed a severe camera affliction marked by the display of an odd, sour smile that passes off as posing for the camera. Once the boy sees a camera, that smile gets automatically frozen in his face; a few minutes later, he escapes as far away as he can. We’ve learned the best way to get a natural, sweet smile from him is to lie in wait with camera in hand, keeping as still as possible, unnoticed and melding with the background. You can’t spook him or he’ll turn away. All those hours of watching the National Geographic Channel paid off, but it takes forever just to get him to trust us with a camera again.
I guess I should accept it by now. We’re not your typical family and will never be one, not by anyone’s standards. We’re the family that never gets our portraits taken on Christmas time, or any other time of the year. Not when one of us (hint: it may be Alphonse) hates cameras, hates sitting still, hates getting dressed (yes, he loves his birthday suit!), hates being photographed, hates anything with wires, hates lighting, and hates having to be posed.
And so this year, I finally give up on this foolish quest. I promise to stop wishing for the moon and accept that the only family pictures that will ever matter to me are the ones that are already in my mind and heart. My petty ambitions and lofty dreams will always come second to my family’s comfort. Knowing that, I am not the least bit disappointed; I am kind of relieved, in a way.
So, Merry Christmas, friends, and have a Happy New Year! This is the magic of Photoshop.