Long before Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat and all other filtered projections of our most perfect and curated selves there was the annual holiday letter. Letters full of updates and accolades, achievements and vacations and job promotions. Somewhere along the way this morphed into photo cards. I LOVE holiday cards. LOVE. Love sending, love receiving. I like seeing the families morph. I like seeing the clever frames and banners and card styles and shapes and colors. Shoutout to anyone who pays extra for scalloped edges. They.look.amazing. And I really, really like the weird ones we get and we get them almost every single year. Weird cards RULE.
One year I got a Christmas letter from a family member. I am related to this person. The entire letter was about the deep and somber symbolism of the candy cane. It was long and detailed. According to this letter, the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Christ and the red represents the blood of lamb who was slain. (Insert surprised and barf emoji here) Uh…what? Needless to say, I needed a very long break from candy canes and those relatives.
I had a friend who was divorced and got remarried. A wedding photo was their holiday card. But her name was the same. I didn’t get it. Did she keep her name? Did he take her name? I ended up having to place a phone call. She married someone with the same last name the second time. What are the odds? Note: Super convenient if you already have Pottery Barn monogrammed towels.
One year we got one from a colleague that worked with my husband. It was a photo of a man and a woman on a horse. They were on a beach. It was signed: (I’m using aliases for their own protection) Tom, Linda and Gwen. There were only two people in the photo. Was it Tom and Linda? Was it Tom and Gwen? Why two female names? Do they have a daughter not pictured? Is the horse named Gwen? Did they name their horse? Is Linda more of a horse name? Why do you have a horse featured in your holiday card? It remains a mystery.
I have a friend who has referred to the annual holiday card family photo shoot as “The Worst Day of The Year”. He is a boisterous happy-go-lucky type so if it can take him out, it is certainly capable of making any of us crazy.
For years I have obsessed with the holiday photo card. It’s a sickness. Mainly because it is a complex multi-step process during a busy time of year and I am in charge of all the steps because I am the only one who cares WAAAAAAY too much about the result. The setting, the outfits, screaming at the people to get ready, hiring the photographer, the scheduling, the editing, the ordering, the addressing, the culling of the addresses from 23 places, the mailing, et cetera et cetera. I do it to myself because I do like having a family photo from each year but in retrospect-none of them are what they appear and some years, I may have sent the wrong one.
I was going to send this in 2003. I thought it would be funny because this year it felt like we were perpetually desperate for sleep and the kids were perpetually awake that year. But I thought I looked like hell and I didn’t like the drool all over the baby onesie. My husband feels he has “fat face” in this picture. Should have sent it. I still think it’s funny. Look at that tough guy look with the power fist on a 2 month old.
I always loved this picture but I didn’t use it for the card because the wind got into her hair and the baby pant leg crept up over his chunky leg and his diaper was way past slightly wet. Now I think…Ahhhhh… we look young. Babies having babies in that photo.
Couldn’t use this for the card because I thought we looked “too sweaty”. And again the boy wasn’t looking directly at the camera. It looks like us. We were chasing young children while sweating. …And we were just a simple family of four…
This year I yelled at my son because he was eating pretzels in the car making his shirt a mess. What kind of lunatic dresses kids this age in white? Later in the day he slipped on a rock and stepped INTO a pool of water filling his shoe. (Mud on right pant leg) I thought it was complicated getting them both to pose and stay clean until…
Now…I did use one from this group of photos…but not this one because the boy is AGAIN not looking at the camera and the baby looks squished and I look so tired which I was because of well…all of them in the photo. I literally have zero recollection of these photos being taken. The whole day is lost. Oh hell…the following year is missing from my hard drive. I guess thank God I have the photo. That’s a nine mile stare and a cry for help expression on my face.
I didn’t use this one because I didn’t like the way two of them had on shoes and one didn’t. And my daughter had a weird spot on the knee of her jeans. What on earth??? Who cares? Now I can’t pick up any of them like that. They can nearly pick me up!
I should have sent this one that year. There was a lot of me begging and pleading for everything to JUST SMILE NORMAL. All we did was wait for the baby to join us that day and that entire year. He was not having it. And I’m smiling but I was seriously irritated. Hurry up kid. We have a photo shoot with a paid photographer right.NOW.
I was mad. At that face??? HOW? How was that even possible?
So I used this one. This is my favorite holiday card that I have ever sent. EVER. More than five people asked me if I photoshopped it. Uh…No. I had to physically wrestle/bribe/beg him to get him to just wear that shirt. He insisted he put it over the shirt he was already wearing. I had used up all my energy trying to just get people dressed. Not photoshopped. But…from the same day the one below…
THIS captures more about the family dynamic. The domination of a large personality packed into a tiny person.
This is very close to the one I did use. More than one person asked me where we got the “cute vintage car with the tree” for the photo. In the driveway. Our driveway. That was just my husband’s car. He didn’t know he was being vintage cute. Also…that’s our tree that we cut down that day. Do people borrow cars and trees for their holiday card?
Ok. I used this one. I wanted a real snowball fight photo so we had a real snowball fight. However, I specifically and LOUDLY told them to not aim for faces or someone would cry and then we wouldn’t have any photos. As you can see, they listened so well. You can also see that my daughter was struck in the back of the head as well. We went home tired, wet and cold. But it did make for a good photo. Also, I spent an hour on the phone with the printer so they would move the text box. Because I’m crazy.
I didn’t use this one because our legs looked weird to me and the wild man’s shirt wasn’t showing and it said, “Silent Nights are Boring”. I like this photo though…because 30 seconds after it was taken…we broke the hammock completely and all fell screaming onto the ground. Max weight limit on that hammock < Our family.
Note: The photo I did use had full frontal dog nudity. There was a dog penis in our holiday card that year. For.real.
Last year. I sent a collage of imperfect shots because I.was.tired. I did not include the ones where 2/3 of the kids turned and bent over to feature their butts. Because we are classy.
This year…a panicked text message to a dear friend that it was snowing. Big flakes in November. We throw clothes on and race to the docks. She takes this photo on my phone.
I wanted it in height order because I am moving down the line and the kids are moving up. Now…I look taller than my daughter but her knees are bent and my hair stands up. Everyone looking the correct direction. Even the puppy. Good work. We look like a normal family.
Here we are 5 minutes later. Older brother throws younger brother’s frisbee into the water. Cue innocent sister laughing. Cue mom and dad screaming at kid to go retrieve frisbee. Yeah…we know it’s cold. Next time, don’t be an idiot and throw something in the lake.
So…Long after I’m gone and only the photos remain…I hope my children realize, our real lives, family life-the very best of it was all in the outtakes.