Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Why we didn't take a Christmas picture this year

I'd mentioned in my Thanksgiving story how we'd taken a Christmas picture, as a family, every year for over 20 years, and sent it with our Christmas cards. This isn't one of them, but it conveys the general idea.

Some years were easier than others: Most kids, when they're little, will pose willingly for photographs. Sometimes it's hard to keep them out of a picture if they know you're taking one. But as they grow older that they become increasingly reluctant. Oldest Son was the balkiest of our brood -- and he never, ever smiled in a photograph. At least not on purpose. I think it has something to do with maintaining his street cred. It wasn't just in family pictures that he affected a constipated-looking grimace: I've seen pictures of him taken by school friends... and the look is the same.

I recently saw the proofs of his college graduation pictures: Grimace, grimace, grimace, grimace, grimace facing the other way, grimace... smile. "I only want one picture," I told Oldest Son after I'd seen the proofs. "Yeah, I know which one," he said, resignedly. "What happened?" I asked (meaning, how did the facade crack, even if only momentarily). "He said something funny and I didn't know he was still shooting," Oldest Son responded.

Ironically, last year was perhaps the easiest year for Christmas pictures since the kids were toddlers. We had a new digital camera so we didn't have to take 20 shots in the hopes that one would come out -- and the White Sox had just won the World Series, so I suggested that we all pose in White Sox attire. Everyone gladly donned Sox hats, jerseys, t-shirts... and everyone cooperated.

The digital camera represented a marked improvement over the old method. When I had parents available, my father took the picture. When my parents were no longer available, I had a brother-in-law take the picture. When he was no longer available, we had to resort to a timer.

That meant that one person had to run back into place after pressing the shutter. It may not have been as difficult as it was for this man to photograph himself. But we had seven people -- several of whom did not want to be in the same room with one another -- and we needed each and every one of them to not move or blink or scratch or scowl for an entire millisecond. Well, actually, if Oldest Son had merely scowled that would probably have been an improvement over the traditional grimace. But you know what I mean. And we had to shoot an entire roll of film because we didn't want to have to try and assemble the clan again. Some years we were hard pressed to find one picture in 24 that would serve.

After Thanksgiving I'd told you that we weren't able to take this year's picture on Thanksgiving because Oldest Son was leaving... with eight of his friends, all of whom had spent the night at our house... for California on Thanksgiving morning at 6:00 am. Older Daughter, though, was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday evening early, so we thought we might get the shot in then.

She didn't get in until very late, and we got no photo.

Then Older Daughter bought a car, and we were given to understand that she'd be coming up from Indianapolis to show it off on the weekend of December 16-17. Oldest Son and Middle Son would be home from college by then. This would not give us a lot of time to get photos done and in the mail with our Christmas cards... but it would still be within the realm of possibility.

But Older Daughter's plans changed and she didn't come. Long Suffering Spouse told Older Daughter that we'd just take the picture without her... after all, Older Daughter is allegedly on her own, living (as she sees it) independently, and out of school... but after Older Daughter hung up on my wife, apparently sobbing, we decided to amend those plans. The cards went out... eventually... without photographs.

But now it's Christmas Eve... and the entire family is assembled again: Surely now we could take the family photograph.

We were expected at my mother-in-law's for dinner at 6:00.

My mother-in-law called at 5:15 to tell us that my wife's sister had already arrived with her children and we should hurry. Oldest Son and Middle Son had begun their Christmas shopping after the Bears game ended, around 3:00, but they had just returned home, and were preparing to shower and shave and dress for dinner when this call came.

But we got there by 6:15 -- which in other years would have been very good. This year... not so much.

I delegated the task of assembling the photography equipment to Youngest Son. He is the only one who can work the video camera anyway and he enjoys the task.

So, after dinner, when the presents had been exchanged, I thought we just might get our Christmas picture. Long Suffering Spouse pulled out the digital camera to take a couple of pictures of our younger neices and nephews opening their gifts... but the battery was dead. That shouldn't be, I said, we always charge the battery back up before putting it away.

No problem, said LSS, calling to Youngest Son, "Get me the case. The spare battery is there."

But Youngest Son didn't have the case. "It's at home," he said.

So we didn't get our Christmas picture after all.

I was still fuming on the way home. "How could you be so careless?" I asked Youngest Son. "This is the one thing I asked you to do and you didn't do it!"

In truth, I probably used several variations on this theme as rather one-sided conversation. Eventually Younger Daughter spoke up. "Maybe it wasn't entirely his fault," she offered.

"What do you mean?" I asked -- probably in a loud voice because, if nothing else, I hate being interrupted in mid-tirade.

"I had the case," Younger Daughter admitted. The significance of the past tense was lost on me at that moment. But it developed that she'd taken the camera without permission, used it -- supposedly at her band concert in mid-December -- but who knows really where -- and she'd not put it back. Or recharged the battery. When Youngest Son went looking for the camera earlier in the day, Younger Daughter could only find the camera itself... and it turned out she may have thrown out the case, and the spare battery and battery charger contained therein, in the course of a panic clean-up of her room one evening that was designed to induce us to let her go somewhere with her friends.

Her friends who've no doubt seen the pictures Younger Daughter took with our camera and uploaded to her Facebook page.

Which is another sore point. But I'll stop here. I've ranted enough for one day....


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

sigh.... i know it's hard curmy. i got a great shot of sarge and i on formal night on the ship and had it made into christmas cards right there, amazing, for once i had the perfect card. until i got home. i left the danged things in a drawer on the ship and it sailed... oh well, there is always next year. bee

landgirl said...

I have a small family--my biological family, that is--and we have never managed to get all of us in Christmas shot. Now that I married and became and ex pat I have family on several continents. Just getting them on the same continent at the same time would be a challenge.
Thanks BTW for your welcoming words to your toddling town. I like Chicago very much.

sari said...

Eight asked me recently why we never have family photos for our Christmas cards. I could only think that we'd actually have to go somewhere and have our photo taken, which has just never happened, so usually it's only three of the four of us in a picture.

Maybe we'll get with it and have a family holiday photo next year.

SQT said...

I hate having my picture taken, so I'm usually the party pooper. My kids are total hams (they're young still) so no problems there, yet.

Where fibers meet mud said...

Crum, thanks for the tirade and the picture into your life with family photos... One recent blessing is Adobe photoshop!

You can insert people into a picture that were nowhere near where the picture was taken... voila - you could have a fam photo sans the problemos... but what fun would that be... I promised my Dad a family photo and seeing as there was no time when all were together - I am getting the Adobe and saving my pride...

Anonymous said...

We had a great photo taken in our favorite custom t-shirts. It was unique and fun! Totally different from anything we've done before.

Barb said...

My kids took themselves and the grandkids to a studio to have their pictures done. (It's posted on my blog.) But of course I've heard the story behind the picture, about how the grandkids took turns crying etc.

Sorry you didn't get yours done.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Taking a Christnas picture is a really good idea.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Merry post-Christmas!

susan said...

Wow! That's drama even my family didn't match this year! Sorry for the disappointment... maybe next year's picture will be the one to make up for it!

MommasWorld said...

I staid in a hotel room that "ate" things like a toy, the only hair brush I brought with me and yes, the spare battery, camera remote and charger for the camera.

I put up a picture just for you on my site to cheer you up. Ok, so it isn't your family photo but I am sure they wouldn't mind loaning it out to you :-)

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

knock knock....


anybody there????


Anonymous said...

These pics are great, I do hope we see some updated family pics too.