In our own backyard...Hold that pose!Something strange happens when your kids grow up and go away. The primary reason for your existence for all those years shifts entirely to your spouse – and your pets.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
For many, many Christmases, I diligently set up the picture-perfect Christmas card shot featuring pastoral scenes such as my kids reading the Christmas story in a large, Bentwood rocker in front of the tree, or feeding inquisitive chickadees out on the deck, or dragging home a bushy balsam tree in their matching lumberjack plaid jackets. And unbeknownst to those who received those nostalgic Christmas cards, there was quite a production that went into each and every one of them.
The only time the kids were totally cooperative was the very first year, when they weren’t old enough to know any better and did pretty much whatever I asked them to do. It didn’t take long, however, before they got wise to the fact that I was hell-bent-for leather in pursuing the ideal Christmas card shot, and there would be no rest until I captured it.
One year, I decided I wanted to take a photo of the two of them standing alongside our two horses. And though I could wheedle and plead for my kids to look up and smile, there was simply no way of pounding that message through to the horses, who sensed something was up and refused to stand still and look at the camera. I rattled the oat can, I made high-pitched whinnying sounds, I even threatened them in a loud, booming voice. The resulting Christmas card shot showed two children smiling determinedly through gritted teeth, one horse with head up and ears forward, and one horse with ears pinned back and eyes closed.
About the time my kids were almost in high school, I knew my family Christmas card days were nearing an end. Both of them rebelled at the very idea of having to sit through another Christmas photo shoot, and besides, after all those years I was running out of original ideas.
For the next several years, I gave all of us a break and simply bought ready-made cards featuring pastoral forest scenes, or stockings hanging over the fireplace, or deer grazing next to picturesque log cabins. Every once in a while, someone would comment that they missed our Christmas card shots, but to tell you the truth, it was much more relaxing to give ourselves permission to go without them.
But something strange happens when your kids grow up and go away. The primary reason for your existence for all those years shifts entirely to your spouse – and your pets. A couple of years ago Ken and I started using a photo of ourselves on our Christmas card, framed by snowy woods or sitting on the shore of Lake Superior. This year, however, I decided I wanted to take a photo of our two cats for the family Christmas card. Totally oblivious to the lessons I’d learned lo those many years ago, I even took it a step further and bought a tiny miniature Santa hat for one and a set of reindeer antlers for the other. It all seemed so fun, and so simple.
It took four days to get the Christmas card shot this year.
On the first attempt, the cats both panicked from the strange headgear they were being forced to wear and they raced out of the room tearing at their hats and practically turning summersaults in their effort to rub them off.
On the second attempt, we decided one of us would have to be the “handler” and one would be the photographer. I volunteered for the handler duties, since I had a preconceived idea of how the Santa hat and antlers should be set on the cats’ heads in order to make them look “jaunty.” I sat on the fireplace hearth with both of them in my lap.
Mufasa growled at me and Sunshine tried to bite me.
On the third attempt, I suggested we back a big arm chair up to the Christmas tree and set the cats in it (so I didn’t have to risk getting bitten again!), but as soon as we put one of them in the chair, the other one would jump out and run away.
“How about trying it without the hats?” my husband suggested.
“No, I paid for those hats and they’re going to wear them,” I replied tersely, my nerves getting closer to the surface as it got closer to Christmas without any cards ready to go in the mail.
I went back to the “handler” approach, suggesting to Ken that he set the camera on the “sports” setting this time so he could take a continuous stream of shots in hopes that we might just capture that perfect moment somewhere along the way before all of us self-destructed. I sat on the hearth with both cats in my lap, adjusted their head gear and held on to them as they struggled. Sunshine’s Santa hat fell down over her face, and Mufasa’s reindeer antlers slid off the back of his head as both of them began a warning rumble deep in the backs of their throats.
It was then that a sudden flashback hit me as I remembered all of those family Christmas card shots I had orchestrated over the years. But I didn’t give up until we finally got the shot, because I knew that a year from now, we’ll look back at this photo and think how cute it is – forgetting entirely what we went through to get it!