It’s the time of year when many young children are being professionally photographed for their holiday portraits. This annual ritual of sending pictures to grandparents, relatives, and close friends is a big deal, and I never cease to marvel at the confidence of new moms as their faces glow with the unmitigated joy of anticipation that accompanies that first holiday photo shoot. No visions of vomit or hanging globules of mucous ever dance through their heads.
I had their confidence once -- until December 2003. That was when my husband and I took our two-year-old daughter Katie, and our one-year-old son Jack, to Sears for professional Christmas portraits. Katie had engineered the “terrible twos” into high art, and my son had uncontrollable reflux. While she threw props aimlessly around the room, he would projectile vomit. It was a game of “Watch out for the flying….get me a wipe!”
Looking back from where I stand now, five years later, I can say with great certainty that that Christmas photo shoot at Sears irreparably broke us. We would never again be the same optimistic people we thought we were. We became unsettled and jumpy; Tums became a menu staple; and, perhaps worse of all, we never again doubted the destructive power of little people.
I remember being so upset when we left Sears without having had any photos taken. I felt a failure as a mother. However, the next morning after my husband left for work, I glue-gunned the diapers of both my children to the kitchen chairs, took a grainy photo of them screaming, and then sat down to scribble a holiday poem to accompany the picture. That poem appears below.
I’ve since learned that no matter how bad things get, time, good humor, and the fact that my children have broken me in greater, more imaginative, ways has made me laugh and appreciate the memory of that night at Sears. Had the photos been taken without a glitch, all I’d have is a perfect picture in a frame, and that moment of madness would have been lost to time. After all, life’s not picture perfect—only our perception of what it ought to look like is.
Our Christmas Story
'Twas the night before Christmas and as in past years,
We ran with our coupon for portraits at Sears.
The children were dressed in their holiday clothes,
And nothing was running from anyone’s nose.
In the waiting room we hung with our children so quiet,
While all those around us created a riot.
Then what to my deafening ears should I hear?
But our names being called as the photographer appeared.
So into the studio we all merrily walked,
And it was then that our little Katie started to balk.
Slowly it rose like boiling steam in a heater,
And I shuddered as the photographer knelt down to greet her.
For it was then that Katie pulled at her hair,
Knocked down the props, jumped on a chair.
Running and reaching and try as we might,
The whole sordid scene turned into a fright.
And still as a church mouse baby Jack sat and stared,
I could tell from his face, he appeared very scared.
And Daddy in his sneakers, and I in my hose,
Tried hard to grab Katie to sit for a pose.
She sat for a second then jumped up and yelled,
As I screamed ‘cross the room, “Oh, damn it to hell!”
But the photographer stood, immobile, unable to act,
Looking at me as though I was whacked!
I finally agreed that it was not very wise,
To subject all at Sears to Katie’s loud cries.
So kicking and screaming we left that good store,
Not through the front, but out the back door.
Agreeing that it wasn’t a very good idea,
And so there are no portraits to send you this year,
So here are our children as best as they’d sit,
And to tell you the truth, I don’t give a _____(hoot!)