So if you’re reading this because you received notice about a new post here at Cathy C. Hall, then this random essay might not make much sense. But if you’ve come here from my Muffin post, then yes, this is the 2007 opinion I mentioned and thus makes perfect sense.
(And if you’re totally confused, don’t worry about it. Just enjoy my essay that originally was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2007. It’s probably in the archives but who can figure those out?)
This past Thanksgiving I was visiting with my parents when I found a box jam-packed with grainy, fading photographs. My dad sat down with me and we had the best time looking through the pictures, figuring out which woman was my grandmother, which gentleman was my grandfather, and especially, which little boy was my dad.
My dad is eighty-four years old. I’m no math wizard, but some quick subtraction told me these photos were taken in 1933. Or ’35. Or ’38. The point is, way, way back in the day, photos were taken pretty regularly. Imagine that.
Because a search through my mom’s scrapbook will produce an extremely meager stash of her young family’s pictures. Especially when it comes to me, otherwise known as the third-born.
My two older brothers, at two and three-years-old, show up in some dandy pics, wearing cowboy suits and boots, pedaling a tricycle. Or in the park, dressed in little jackets with those ear-flap hats on their buzz-cut heads. Then I was delivered and wham! Welcome to the photographic black hole.
“But what about holiday photos?” you ask. Surely, there’s a precious picture of that only daughter, dressed in red velvet and lace or even footy pajamas. What mother doesn’t have a bounty of black-and-white memories of her little ones, opening presents on Christmas morn, or sitting on Santy’s lap, their tiny eyes all aglow?
Well, okay. There is a holiday photo. I suppose the only reason we have that picture is because my mother didn’t have to take it. There we stand, my two older brothers and I, sort of close, but not really, to the fat, jolly man. We look distinctly uncomfortable. Probably because we had no idea what was going on, being as unfamiliar as we were to the whole picture-taking process.
It’s the only photo I’ve ever seen of me or my brothers with Santa Claus. When I asked my mom about this phenomenon, she claimed nobody took pictures back in the day. When pressed further, she’d say she was too busy raising her children to bother with pictures, especially around the holidays. Like that’s any kind of an excuse.
So I vowed to be the best darn picture taker ever after my first-born arrived. His baby book is crammed with page after page of snapshots, documenting his every move. And Christmas pictures? Too many to count. I’m surprised we didn’t have to take out a loan to pay for all that December adorableness.
When his sister followed a few years later, I clicked away. Her baby book is full, too. Maybe not crammed. Maybe not chronicled month-by-month. More like quarter-by-quarter. But in my defense, she leaped from one milestone to the next, unlike her brother, who crawled at a snail’s pace. Is that the photographer’s fault?
And can you really blame the photographer if at Christmas, a certain little girl had an aversion to sitting on strange men’s laps? There are a few photos of my daughter with Santa, but she’s usually standing to the side of the chair, looking distinctly uncomfortable (like mother, like daughter). So can you blame a parent if those holiday photos weren’t taken at the expensive mall Santa hot spot? I mean, we still had to pay something for the pictures, even if it was a donated can of peas or box of tuna helper.
The third child joined us in 1991, I think it was. And I truly believe that 2008 will be the year I finish his baby book.
But, and this is the most important thing to remember during this holiday season, I do have a picture of my youngest with Santa Claus. There’s a darling Polaroid of him with a teenage Santa taken during a Secret Shopping Day extravaganza. Sure, the photo was free. And maybe I wasn’t exactly there to take the picture. And it’s possible that my child is leaning against the chair because he’s way too big to sit in the scrawny Santa’s lap. But there’s a definite look of wonder on my son’s face.
Maybe the poor kid’s wondering what he’s doing with this fake fourteen-year-old Santa? And I think I know the answer to that. But first, I’ve got to call my mother.
She’s getting an apology for Christmas.