Christmas...about four years ago, I had a family picture taken. You know, the nice kind, the kind where we get all dressed up and go to Lodi Lake or some other great nature location (that we don't actually visit in our regular lives) and capture a little moment in time.
The last time I attempted such a thing it was 2002, I only had three children, and it was a horrific disaster of grand proportions that established my belief system that sometimes you need a drink WAY before 5 pm.
I don't take posed pictures. There are no three months shots or two year pictures of my children. I have never been to the JC Penny or Sears photo department. I'm just uninterested. The girls all have one formal shot as babies taken at various locations. With Mary I had to go in to her daycare on picture day with a special outfit and beg the photographer to take one of her outside of the regular school pictures so that I would have a baby shot like the girls had. I think the photographer sensed my desperation and in a nice moment of "supply and demand" I may have paid more for Mary's picture than one would pay for say, a new stainless steel refrigerator.
I thought Mary's picture blended well with the other three. That is until I was finishing our new and improved picture wall. I was attempting to place the baby photos with our new family shots. Mary watched the whole process. It took about a year to get this picture wall done. I cannot seem to commit to decorating, so the pictures first came off of their old wall. They then sat against their new wall for about eight months. It then took another four months to hang them, one by one, on the new wall. I was very happy with the outcome. Until Mary walked by and mumbled, "I don't know who you think you are trying to fool with that picture of me. It is obvious I am like two and the others are babies."
There are no school pictures after sixth grade. I only buy them through elementary school so that the girls will have class pictures to look back on when they are in college. I know this is necessary for when you are drinking with girlfriends and realize that someone you had a crush on is back in town, or someone you did not have a crush on turned out much better than expected. I am kind about buying yearbooks for this same reason.
For dance and sports pictures I have two words for you...Memory Mate. I could not even begin to tell you what is on any order form in terms of packages and what is available to me as a parent and memory keeper of the family. I only scan until I see the words "Memory Mate" (a combo photo set on one page with both a group shot and an individual).
All this being said, in 2002 I had a slight lapse in judgement. I had a moment, in hindsight a ridiculously stupid moment, where I envisioned a really beautiful, formal picture of my three beautiful girls. I should mention that at the time of this less than brilliant vision I was a stay at home mom for the first time in my life and it is possible that I was doing things that I THOUGHT I was supposed to do, not things that I SHOULD actually do in keeping with who I am as a person.
So, I set up the appointment, chose a day when our super sweet babysitter could go with us (since I took the babysitter, I must have had an inclination that it could possibly all go awry) and off we went. The super sweet babysitter is a good family friend. She was maybe 18 at the time. Now she is in her late twenties, married with a child of her own. This sweet girl has NOT forgotten the day, and I don't see any formal pictures of her child on Facebook, so I may have ruined it for her.
I bought ridiculously expensive matching outfits for the girls at a ridiculous expensive children's boutique. Only they didn't have one in my youngest child's s size so I bought her the boy one. Which seemed fine at the time, but in reality was a poor choice. My middle child was in a stage (not too different then the one that we are encountering during her teen years) of everything being difficult and a slight resistance to authority. So, she spent the time refusing to smile, sticking her tongue out at the photographer, and lifting her dress to show us her underwear whenever the camera would click. The day ended with us dragging ourselves home, me pouring a drink and apologizing to the babysitter that I could not offer her a drink at 18, even though I knew she needed one as badly as I did. There would be no formal photo again for 12 years.
The family photo a few years ago went much better. There was a fair amount of bickering (all out sister screaming and yelling over important things like old brushes and socks), but the girls smiled, there was no tongue sticking out and no one showed their underwear, so there was a victory in that. It was our Christmas card picture that year and I loved it in every way.
Family pictures are not a given anymore. This year I didn't even have one of all of us together for our Christmas card. We were only all together as a family on the fourth of July, and we didn't take a family shot. My hardest "family" shots are in June at our dance recital. Years and years of Corey and I and our four girls. Now there are only three dancers, soon to be two, and Nicole does not make it home to watch the recital every year. It is those pictures, of just the five of us, that tug at my heart, that make me realize we will never be a family in the same way again.
We were together briefly at Christmas, I didn't get a family shot. We had such a short amount of time together I didn't want to harp on the photo. Graduation number two looms ahead of us and I hope to get a family shot then. But really, each year is more a "piecing together" of our lives than a complete puzzle.
New home. No picture wall yet. It may take years. Maybe with all their senior pictures...I should start taking Mary Anne's now.