You think managing kids’ Christmas expectations is hard?
You should deal with my friends’.
Every year, the questions start coming before the Thanksgiving turkey is even cold.
“What are you doing for your Christmas card this year?” they’ll ask. Or, “How are you going to top last year’s card?” Or worse yet, “I hope your card is funny this year. Last year’s was kind of disappointing.”
Talk about pressure.
My husband and I used to send the usual photo cards — our family sitting on the fireplace hearth, our family gathered in front of the Christmas tree, our family posed in front of the Christmas tree.
Then came the year my son, Dan, lost his front teeth. Inspiration struck.
I’d taken a cute picture of him with a big grin showing that toothless gap, so I put it on the front of a card with a simple message: “Rejoith!” Inside the card I added the inscription, “Wishing you all you want for Christmas.”
It was a hit.
The next year I used a picture of Dan saluting in my dad’s old Army uniform, which he’d worn for Halloween. “Have a joyous holiday,” the card said. “That’s an order.”
In the years that followed, the annual Christmas card became a personal challenge. I struggled and pondered till I came up with something clever. And with each card, my friends’ expectations rose.
I’ve Photoshopped our faces atop Christmas socks with the message, “Look! Santa left nuts in our stockings!” I’ve substituted our heads for those of the Peanuts characters dancing around the base of a Christmas tree. (If you’re familiar with the soundtrack album to A Charlie Brown Christmas, you know the picture I’m talking about.) When Dan was a student at Ohio State, we posed while making the requisite O-H-I-O arm motions. But since we only had enough people for O, H and I, we used a wreath for the other O.
One year I’d racked my brains with no success and was about to give up on creating a card when I woke one December Saturday to a snowfall several inches deep. I shuffled my feet in our snow-covered backyard to spell out the word “Joy” and then posed the three of us behind it for a picture accompanied by the message, “May you find joy everywhere you look this holiday season.” Luckily we managed to round up a tall ladder and an accommodating neighbor to pull off the picture.
My plans didn’t always work out so well, though.
During a spring trip to Florida several years ago, I had the brainstorm of building a teeny snowman on the beach and posing us with it with the intention of making a card saying, “Sea Sun’s Greetings.” But this was before digital cameras, and I didn’t realize till I got the film developed that the kind stranger who took the photo for us had cut off the tops of our heads.
I tried dubbing a picture of my husband into a photo he’d shot of Dan and me with the sandman, but that didn’t work so well. So I went with another plan: I used the photo sans hubby, captioning it as though the sand/snow man were him. Then I added a picture on the back of the card showing him clowning around with a gorilla statue we’d come across on the same trip. “Tom was up to his usual monkey business and missed the family Christmas card photo,” I explained in the caption.
It was meant to be.
Thinking back, I’m amazed my son went along with all of this. Even as a teenager, he never once balked at joining Mom and Dad in striking whatever ridiculous pose I’d cooked up that year. He even let us wrap him in strings of Christmas lights and perch a treetop angel on his head for a picture accompanied by the message, “There’s nothing quite like a live Christmas tree.”
(Note to Children Services: We kept the lights plugged in for only about a minute at a time, just long enough to shoot a few photos. No humans were harmed in the making of this Christmas card.)
Admittedly my creative edge has dulled a bit since Dan left the nest. Somehow pictures of a middle-aged couple just aren’t that funny.
That’s my way of telling my friends not to get their hopes up. The cards are in the mail.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or email@example.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.