Cynthia L. Eppley December 7, 2021
That time of Year
It’s that time of year when our hearts and minds turn to Christmas. Often, that includes sending out cards—either physical or ecards.
Since I haven’t sent cards in a few years, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and actually order prints including our family.
I suppose this should be easy. Shutterfly, Snapfish, and so many others have platforms that make this task go quickly.
Or so it would seem.
First, what pictures to choose? I carefully got permission from our grown children to include them. Our children are grown, with children of their own; friends and families want an update! But therein lies the rub.
How do we get the “Just right” picture for Christmas? You try to herd children into a picture; it’s rather like herding cats.
Best Laid Plans
I know parents choose outfits carefully before the photo shoot. Perhaps everyone is color coordinated in their “Sunday best.” Or maybe the picture was captured over summer vacation. But this we know: the best laid plans often go astray.
Who hasn’t had their family all dressed for an event…..when the baby vomits on their outfit? Or worse, a diaper leak makes that outfit fit for the trash.
And how many mothers have spit up on their shoulders?
How many toddlers are having a meltdown?
Generally, we want everyone smiling for the camera.
When we’re dealing with kids?
One of my friends shared the family picture, and the toddler was racing away.
They caught the image in mid stride, and as she said: “That’s the best we could do!” Or perhaps the kids are all screaming. Or in outright rebellion, looking down or away.
Besides the “Just right” picture, there is the “Looking goofy” picture. Is this the one we should choose?
With everyone making a comical face?
Which one represents reality?
What is real?
Picture Perfect The picture you see above is an actual picture of an actual family being very, very real. They are sitting for their mother, my friend and professional photographer Rae Barnes.(See raebarnes.com) Here is her take on “Getting the Perfect Picture:” “Before you start to think that my kids are perfect and just LOVE having their pictures taken by me (and always cooperate)…” (I especially love the little guy picking his nose…)
This year I chose to print a short summary of our family, to bring people up to speed.
I carefully crafted the words to describe our grown up children’s positions and activities. Spelled out our trips and tribulations—at least some of them.
And saved it on the website. Imagine my horror when I went back to retrieve it……and it wasn’t there.
All that work for naught?
My expletives were not ready for Christmas. I was not smiling for the camera.
Which brings me to the question:
Just how real do we get with these cards?
What do we share? How much do we share? And where does the better part of discretion lie?
If we were to believe what we see on the Internet, we’d see only perfection.
Perfect family pictures, with all lined up “just right.”
Smiling members, implying that all is right with the world.
The tree manicured and every ornament perfectly placed; no lights burnt out.
The dinner table shimmers with crystal and candle light; wine flows freely, dinner isn’t burned, and the mashed potatoes actually mashed. (See Mashed Potatoes) Everyone is getting along.
No heated political discussions, no family emergencies, and no health problems….apparently. (More on the Perfect Christmas in the next few days….)
What is Real?
So what do we choose for the Christmas card?
How do we represent ourselves in one picture that we send out? Does that one picture represent our lives for the whole year? How do we choose, and write, and symbolize our lives?
Is this Real? And what is real?
This is very much reflected in the book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams:
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Sometimes I feel like I break easily, and have sharp edges.
Most of my hair might be there, but it certainly is grey.
My eye sight is changing and don’t even begin to mention my joints.
Getting up from the kitchen floor is an exercise in managing cabinets to support me as I attempt to get vertical.
It is not an easy task. The knees don’t work so easily.
Perhaps the greatest truth we can tell ourselves is that we all are a mixture at Christmas. No one gets it right.
No one gets it perfect.
Your Christmas card and my Christmas card are only a thin slice of reality.
As we open our Christmas cards, as we remember friends and family?
We remember them fondly, and perhaps we do know the backstory of their lives.
Perhaps we know the smiles but also their struggles and heartaches.
Let’s remember that this becoming process takes time for all of us.
We are all in process, and we all may be shabby despite what the Christmas Card reveals. But this we do know:
Love came down at Christmas. Christ came down at Christmas.
He came to restore, renew, redeem, and forgive.
This is Real. And this lasts for always.