A Father's Journal / One more shot at greetings greatness
We are going through this year's photos to pick out a photo for our holiday card. Every year, my choice gets shot down. My parents never had this dilemma, because they never sent out holiday cards.
When Caroline was born, it was my idea to go to Sears and get a family portrait taken. In the photo, I held our daughter next to our smiling faces. I have a fairly large head and the newborn baby was rather small. After the cards went out I got a call from my brother Patrick. "I know you have a large head. Remember when they special-ordered a football helmet just for you? But I think your head has gotten bigger over the years -- really it's huge."
After that, holiday pictures were less formal, and featured the kids only.
This year I made two attempts to "stage" some photos. My first attempt was before going on a tour of the famous Glass House in New Canaan. I thought, wouldn't it be a great picture if the girls were in front of it, pretending to throw stones? Really big stones. Then we would come up with a clever caption about throwing stones at a glass house. It was going to be incredible. I spent some time before we left finding some big rocks in our yard. I then washed the rocks so they would gleam in the sun. I placed the heavy rocks into a bag and we went on the tour. The tour guide knew my wife, Laura, so I was sure she would let us pull off our little stunt. We were not actually throwing anything. We were just pretending to throw.
As we were walking around the palatial grounds of the estate, I explained to the guide quietly that the girls really wanted to do it. The truth was, I told my wife and daughters only after they heard the boulders banging around in the sink.
The tour guide got very upset and said under no circumstances could we do it. That this kind of stunt could end up on the Internet, and reflect poorly on the artistic integrity of the place.
I responded (as I hid my bag behind me) that "I told the girls the same thing. I also feel it was irresponsible, but the girls begged so much I agreed to ask you." At the first opportunity I ran back to the car and dumped the polished rocks, then rejoined the tour.
A few weeks ago we were going to a Halloween party in Manhattan. I thought, wouldn't it be great if we went in early, went downtown and then dropped by Occupy Wall Street. We could talk to some protesters, have a teaching moment, then maybe get our holiday card photo with Occupy Wall Street as a backdrop. I could again come up with a clever caption later.
That was the day of the October snow storm. The freezing rain pelted us. My daughters were not happy. It was borderline child abuse. All for a teaching moment and a photo.
In the freezing rain and snow only three protesters were standing up outside the tents. None were conversational protesters. Anyone standing out there, impervious to rain and sleet, was more of a monologue guy as opposed to a dialogue guy. In the cold, I abandoned the teaching moment. We would just try for the photo. The photo turned out to be my two girls staring at the camera shivering with hatred in their eyes. It was aimed at me.
My parents never had these problems. We never sent out photo Christmas cards. I'm almost sure we never even sent generic cards. We did receive a few cards in the mail and a few form letters from families whose children were superior to us in every way. In these letters they would explain how their children had found the cure for cancer while my mother would glance down at her nine children, most of whom didn't have shirts on. I don't think Mom liked Christmas cards.
We did get a card from great uncle Augie every year. No photo, but he would place in a few dollars for my sisters, and handkerchiefs for the boys. Every year we would just stare at the handkerchiefs. We didn't need handkerchiefs. We needed money. We were animals. We wiped our noses on our sleeves, and that was a good day. That meant we were wearing shirts. Where were we going to put our handkerchiefs? Hot glue them to our chests? We didn't have blazers.
We have one last shot at my staged photo. Every year we go down to 78th street and watch the Macys Thanksgiving Parade balloons being blown up the night before the parade. Maybe if it's not raining we will get a good shot.
I'll make up a clever caption later.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org