I just read Mel's musings about holiday cards. I will admit that I am one of those people who sends out a photo of my children every year. It's a family tradition and I've never missed a year. Yeah, it's nice when the photo includes the whole family, but we've never done that. Why not? Well, it's fairly easy to hang a blanket from the ceiling, group the kids in front of it, and then snap a photo. But if I have to include my spouse AND find someone else to take the photo, well then, I can guarantee that the photo will never happen. Too complicated. That kind of thing would take advanced planning, too much an investment of time and energy during what is always a hectic time of the semester.
The reason I send the photo (and I only send it to people whom I think would want to get one - which I realize is not everyone) is because I myself love getting holiday photos in the mail. I love photos of any kind -- kids, old people, cats, dogs, horses, ferrets, whatever. I love handwritten notes. I especially love the corny newsletters. I have a cousin who every year sends an unbelievably horrible newsletter - dreadful stilted rhymes, all kinds of peculiar bragging, and puns that don't even make sense. Red-haired Sister calls me the moment she gets the newsletter and makes me run out to the mailbox to make sure I have one too so that we can mock it out. My Mom and other sisters have been known to join in the ritual of making fun of the newsletter, although Red-haired Sister seems to take particular enjoyment in it.
And we'd all be disappointed if we didn't get the newsletter. We make fun of the letter but we love getting it. And even though we joke about the horrible rhymes, that doesn't mean we don't love the person who sent it and honestly care about what is going on in her life.
This year I asked my kids if it was time to discontinue the holiday photo - my youngest child is ten. But they said, no, we might as well. The relatives were expecting it. It was a tradition. This attitude surprised me.
"But you hate the photo," I said.
"Complaining about the photo shoot is part of the tradition," explained my sixteen-year-old. "Getting you annoyed is part of the fun." His friend, one of our extra kids who has witnessed the photo shoot every year since about first grade, agreed. "Remember the year when we broke one of the lamps and you went psycho? That was mad cool."
We joked about which photo to send. In one shot, the blanket that serves as a backdrop fell down and you can see all the dirty dishes piled on the counter, as well as a bulletin board crammed with all kinds of to-do lists. That photo would give friends a more realistic glimpse into our life. We also considered adding all the extra kids who were lounging about watching us take the photo. The extra kids said, no, they liked their traditional jobs of holding lamps to add extra light (they are just normal living room lamps so it doesn't really work) or doing silly things to make everyone smile. They didn't want to be on the other side of the camera.
In the end we took what was pretty normal shot - well, my youngest child is wearing a black fedora from our dress-up clothes collection, which is maybe a bit strange - and sent it to all the relatives. I always take a leftover card, cut-off the holiday greeting part, and tape it on the inside cover of my journal so that when I'm at a conference, sleeping alone in a strange hotel room, I have a photo of my kids with me.