“Say Cheese!”

img_2552We tried to take the Christmas Card picture on Saturday. Total disaster. If one of the boys wasn’t making an “I hate this” face, the other was mugging for the camera like an overstimulated monkey. And on the exceedingly rare occasion that they both looked, if not happy, then at least not like Jeffrey Dalmer, Delilah ruined the shot by licking herself.

Mind you, we’re not out for perfection here. Those of you who have gotten our card in past years know this. But we do prefer the kids not be wailing on one another. It’s bad for that clergy family, “Angels we have heard on high” image we try to uphold.

Christmas cards are an interesting phenomenon. It’s great to connect with people you only hear from once a year. And we always send ours out not just to friends but the whole parish, along with the Advent & Christmas schedule. But there’s also something quite superficial about the whole charade, something that undermines the notion of authentic friendship. 

Because only the good news goes in. So you hear about the son that just got into Harvard and the daughter that won a ballet competition and the fabulous family vacation to Maui. But you don’t get anything about marital strife or job loss or their child’s bout with depression. Just once, I’d like to receive a Christmas card that would admit to the brokenness and need for healing right along with the proclamations of joys and celebration.

Perhaps the best Christmas card I ever saw was from a family we knew when I was growing up in Baltimore. It was from good friends who lived on a farm with their five children. On the cover they were pictured sitting at a table looking very serious. There was even a hen front and center being held by one of the kids. When you opened up the card, they were all still at the table but hands were up in the air, everyone was laughing, and feathers were flying everywhere.

That’s the reality for most of us; trying to put the best face on a whole lot of chaos. I think it’s okay to let the chaos shine through every once in awhile. Even around the holidays. Maybe we’ll even send out one of our ill-fated Christmas card attempts. But, if not, I’ll be dreading our next family photo shoot.


2 Comments on ““Say Cheese!””

  1. Dorothee says:

    Tim, the best card we ever got was from a creative family who had the same photo shoot experience as you. She made a collage of 3 dreadful photos and 1 good one with a quippy saying – priceless!

  2. Mary W. Cox says:

    Because I inflict a “Christmas letter” on my friends, as well as a home-made (though now mass-produced) card, I do try to include the good, the bad and the ugly. Several years ago this backfired on me, though, when I told the truth about the perfectly dreadful year our daughter had had, and was accused by her of violating her privacy and embarrassing her in front of people she didn’t even know. (Well, that last part is kind of true–she’s been “out of the nest” most of the time since she graduated from high school in ’87 and doesn’t know a lot of our current friends.) Two nights before Christmas she was yelling at me, I was weeping hysterically and my husband was trying to reassure me that she might, eventually, forgive me–maybe even by Christmas. She did. Since then, Gillian gets to preview the Christmas letter–but since then, thank God, her life has been far less fraught with (in her eyes) humiliating tales of woe.

    Little kids, little problems–adult kids, adult confrontations sometimes…


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