Picture perfect holidays

by Debbie Carini


Visit any website where you can order holiday photo cards and you’ll find the most picture-perfect families awash in the glow of Christmas or Hanukkah or New Year’s or any number of end-of-year celebrations.

They look happy, well-dressed, organized and, most importantly, unruffled by the sheer weight of activities, expectations and family drama about to descend upon them. No one is crying, no one is blinking, no one is looking down-the-street instead of straight at the camera.

You ask yourself, “Who are these families?” as you click through the many shapes, designs and typefaces available. And how do they always manage to be photographed smiling and seemingly floating through the air, about to land on a fluffy mattress of Christmas cotton candy?

I’m cynical, yes, and yet I persist in joining the fun.

When I was a child, everyone sent Christmas cards. My mother would string them up around the house or tuck them in the shutter slats on the doors in the family room. Lots of people sent update letters. Some were whimsical and all carried news such as, “Well, we added a new family member this year” or “We saw the Grand Canyon” or “Bubbles the goldfish didn’t make it through 1971.”

Some were quite extensive, as if someone had kept a year-long diary for just such a purpose.

Several years ago, my mother lamented that no one sends pictures anymore. This was when she was still feeling optimistic that photo processing and printing was going to make it to the halfway point of the 2000s. Now, even she has joined the bandwagon of Facebook, the internet and apps, knowing full well that if she wants to see what her grandchildren are doing as they scatter around the country (the globe!) in new jobs and opportunities, she needs to do that online.

But she still likes to send (and receive) Christmas cards, and so do I. And I especially enjoy holiday photo cards, when all participants are seemingly on their best behavior, coiffed and composed.

And so, I found myself this week with a 40 percent off coupon (natch!) and the perfect picture of my son and daughter at my son’s college graduation. Yes, you can see his blue nail polish but overall the effect is holiday heart-warming. My son looks like a giant present, he has so many ribbons around his neck—each signifying an honor society, an activity or club.

I know I’m coming to a chapter where my kids may want to age out of this wonderful custom. Oh, the years of pictures—standing near a giant redwood in Sequoia National Park, posed in front of the Hollywood sign or in a multi-photo array of family activities that also included a shot of our cat drinking out of her favorite vessel in the bathroom and a tagline that read,“Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Yes, we’ve shared a lot with our family and friends through the years. In retrospect, perhaps more than they wanted to know or see. And yet, I want to continue the tradition.

Perhaps I feel a little like the mother in my children’s favorite bedtime book, Robert Munsch’s 1986 classic Love You Forever, in which she tells her children,“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.”

And I think that means they get to be in the Christmas card for a long, long time, because I don’t want it to be just the cats! Happy Holidays from my house to yours.


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