It is the most important picture any mother will take of her children all year, the photo that is viewed more than any other, the photo that defines the family:
The Holiday Card Photo
I vividly remember my dear mom dragging our family to the mall in August of 1982, all six of us decked out in turtlenecks and matching reindeer sweaters, to take advantage of the summer portrait package. Mom thought ahead in every way, taking the picture, saving money, and getting it done early. Every way except the fact that, by the time we trudged across the 115-degree parking lot in full-on winter attire, our summer tans had melted away to a clammy shade of pale.
The photo still sits in her house today.
While experience wasn’t pleasant, I did learn two valuable lessons. The first, to never wear neck-to-toe polyester in the summer, and the second, to always plan ahead for the holiday card.
And so year after year, with every new experience and celebration, I shoot away in hopes of taking what will become THE holiday card shot. This year we posed in the snow, at the park, at the Hutchinson Salt Mines, at the beach, and on our front porch, all to no avail.
It was while tailgating before the KU-OU football game, all of us dressed in crimson and blue and glowing in the beauty of autumn in Lawrence, Kansas, that I decided this would be the setting for the Dunlap Family’s 2009 holiday card photo.
I scouted the hill until I found the perfect spot with Memorial Stadium as our backdrop and Kansas-blue skies above. After carefully arranging my husband and four kids for the photo, I found a young guy who seemed capable of working a camera and asked him to help us.
“No pressure,” I told him, “but this one is for the holiday card, so make it good!”
I jumped in with my crew and smiled for the camera, but the photographer wasn’t satisfied. “Let’s try another,” he smiled. He took another picture. And another. And another, laughing more and more after each one. Apparently he had never seen such a cheerful and photogenic family.
Or so I thought.
It was not until we got home that I saw what he had seen.
While the rest of us were looking straight ahead, facing the camera with gleaming smiles,Caroline, our six-year-old who is known to march to her own drummer, had her head cocked to the side, her eyes crossed, and her tongue sticking out. Every. Single. Shot.
Not a single photo of our crimson and blue family without Caroline hijacking it in the whole series.
After a split second of fury I burst out laughing, as I realized I was about to send out our best holiday card ever...