See, my parents own their own industrial safety supply business. My father has gotten to know many of his customers, so every year, he wants to send them each a personal Christmas card. Somewhere along the way after my sister’s twins were born, those cards started including an annual photo of all five grandchildren. At first, it was cute. It allowed the customers to see how much the kids had grown. We’ve listed them as “Future Employees.” One year, they wore hard hats. One year, they were in boxes with stickers on them, like they were being shipped. The list of poses just goes on and on and on. Fast forward many years, and what we have are 2 teens, 1 tween and 2 almost tweens who really, really don’t want to take a photo together. Just getting them in one place at the same time is difficult enough.
For the past several years, the conversation has gone like this:
One of my parents: “We need to do the Christmas card picture.”
My sister and me and any child standing nearby: “UUUGGGHHH!!!”
One of my parents: “You know we have to do it. How are we going to pose them this year?”
My sister: “I don’t care.”
Me: “It doesn’t matter, because no matter what I suggest, no one will listen anyway.”
One of my parents: “Now, don’t be like that. It will be fun.”
Us, in unison: “Sure it will.”
For the next several weeks, my sister and I go merrily about our business, pretending as though the tradition is not looming over our heads. Finally, after several more times of our parents asking when the picture is going to happen, my sister and I pull out our family calendars (AKA our cell phones). We have a 15 minute conversation of:
“No. We can’t make it then.”
“No, the kids have a party.”
“No, that won’t work.”
“Definitely not that day.”
And we finally discover 5 minutes two weeks from Tuesday that are unaccounted for. With that, we have a plan. Then, we just need a pose. Usually, we agonize over it but pull something out of thin air at the last minute.
This year was no different. I found a pose my parents agreed on, and we were set to go. The idea was that, in the picture, our kids would all be looking at their cell phones. The caption was going to say something to the effect of, “We interrupt our busy schedules to wish you a Merry Christmas.” My sister and I found a few minutes when all 5 kids were available. It was all systems go on the photo tradition.
On the day of the big event, I began warning the Goose and the Beetle an hour ahead of time that they had to get ready for the picture. It wasn’t like there was a lot to get ready for. It would be a casual pose, wearing casual clothing. I just figured they needed time to mentally prepare and possibly brush their hair. Thirty minutes before blast off, the Goose came into my room and said, “Why do we have to take a picture?” I calmly told her we had to because Grandmama and Granddaddy wanted us to. She said she didn’t want to, and I reminded her that it wasn’t about her. She insisted that she didn’t want to, and I again reminded her that there was no “I” in “team.” (I hate that phrase, but I used it. Honest, I did.) She rolled her eyes and said we were talking about a picture and not a team. I said she knew what I meant and told her to go get ready. We then proceeded to have a round and round conversation of, “Why?” and “Because it’s not about you,” for the next 25 minutes.
It was time to go. It would take 10 minutes to get to my sister’s house, and we had 5 minutes to be there. We were on a tight schedule as we had other places to be after the blessed photo shoot. I told the Goose to get in the car, and she continued the argument. Then, she burst into tears. Now, if she had cried to begin with, I might have felt sorry for her. However, she was crying after arguing with me for 25 minutes. I wasn’t buying it. “Get in the car,” was as much sympathy as she got from me.
All the way to my sister’s house, the Goose cried and said she did not want to take a picture. I’m pretty sure I broke the record for how many times a mother can say, “It’s not about you,” in a 10 minute period. We reached my sister’s house, and I approached her door, wild eyed. She opened the door, took one look at me and said, “Good day?” Um, yeah. My answer, though almost incoherent, was, “You deal with her. Take the picture.”
Once the Goose got involved with her cousins, she forgot her problems. She actually did fairly well in the photos. We got enough shots that we felt like we could use something. I had to photoshop the Beetle’s nose, because he had a zit that just wouldn’t quit. I hadn’t even noticed it at home, but he was looking a little Rudolfish in the pictures. So, I gave him a quick paint job, and the picture looked good to me. We cropped it, emailed to our parents and breathed a sigh of relief. It was early December, and the blessed picture was taken. We were awesome. I left my sister’s house practically floating, because I was so happy to have that over with.
Then, we got the email. My parents were not happy with the picture, because they said they wanted to see 5 happy grandkids and not 4 happy and 1 who had been crying. I won’t write what I thought at the moment I read the email. I try to keep this blog child-friendly, you know. Let’s just say I had to take about a week to cool off before I could think about the blessed photo again.
Yesterday, I decided to call my sister and try for round 2 of the photos. We found thirty minutes in the afternoon between the school bus and a party. My sister and her husband decided to change the background for the photo, so we met at a local church with a brick wall. I told the kids to get ready, and the Goose immediately started again with, “Why do I have to be in the picture?” I felt like it was Groundhog Day. (And if you don’t understand that reference, you should watch the movie “Groundhog Day.” It’s really cute. Bill Murray is in it, but he isn’t nearly as weird as he was in “Caddy Shack.”)
The Goose began to throw a hissy fit but quickly controlled herself (thank goodness). We made it to the church and posed the kids. It’s quite a challenge to pose 5 kids so they look like they aren’t posed, but we managed. Then, we endured about 20 minutes of various children taking turns ruining the photo. I was pretty convinced my parents would only see 4 happy grandkids in their picture because my brother-in-law was going to send one of them to the moon. Which one? I was not sure.
Finally, with 5 minutes to spare for us to get the Goose to her party, we called the photo shoot a success. We actually did not know whether we got a good shot or not. My brother-in-law said he would take the camera home and look at the photos on his computer. He said he would let me know this weekend if we need to do a re-take. All I know is, I’m not answering my phone this weekend!
Really, as I have reminded the Goose several times, it is a small thing we can do. If my parents want a picture of their 5 grandkids, then a picture they will get. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal to arrange a picture for the people who raised me and took care of me and loved me. (This is much easier to write now that the picture is taken…Besides, I have to win some brownie points with my parents, who just happen to read my blog - Christmas is coming, you know!) -Al