Family photo …
My family isn’t one to take many photos together. My parents, siblings and I had photos taken when I was a baby at Olan Mills and again when I was 2 or 3. We didn’t have another family photo taken until I was in eighth or ninth grade (circa 2005 or 2006). That was interesting as my brother’s taller-than-6-foot frame didn’t quite fit in the allotted backdrop space, so we huddled together and made do.
It was until 2014 when we had our next family photos taken. We had a plan: Everyone wear a black shirt and jeans. I set up my camera and tripod in my parents’ yard, and we used the side of their white garage as the backdrop. I sent digital copies of the photos to everyone in the family. On Christmas Eve, I surprised my parents with a large family photo printed on wood. They absolutely loved it and hung it right away.
Four years have passed, and we’ve added three new family members—my niece, my sister-in-law and my husband—so it’s time for an update. I wonder what will be waiting for them under the tree!
A basketball …
A basketball. That’s all I longed for as a gift for a Christmas during one of my latter grade-school years. I wanted to make the parochial school team, and I needed to practice. To stress my desire, I even feigned an “air dribble” in our family’s living room. But, on Christmas morning, I saw that Santa hadn’t delivered the ball.
“Did you get everything you wanted?” my mom asked as she prepared Christmas brunch before the arrival of an aunt and uncle. “I guess so,” I lied, trying to look semi-satisfied by sadly kicking one foot against the other and staring at my shoes. She smiled.
The aunt and uncle brought the basketball as one of their gifts, of course. Santa apparently had given them a holiday heads-up. So, I was able to dribble for real in the living room later on Christmas afternoon–until my dad made me stop.
Barbie swimming pool …
As a child, I remember receiving an awesome pink Barbie resort-like swimming pool that I loved. In my memory, this thing had multiple levels and was amazing. Full disclosure: I tried to find a picture of it to fact-check myself and realized it wasn’t quite as extravagant as I thought, but it did have a water slide. (Do a Google search for “1993 Barbie Fountain Pool” if you’re curious.) At my house, Santa pre-assembled some of the gifts that were under the tree instead of just leaving them in the box, and that made the surprise even better.
About five years ago, I ran out of ideas of what to give my grandparents and great-aunts for Christmas. They didn’t want “stuff,” and gift cards felt too impersonal. What they said they wanted was to just spend time with me, which was hard to do since I lived more than an hour away. I came up with what I thought was the next best thing: Monthly postcards. Now at each Christmas, I renew their “subscription” for the postcards.
The postcards have been a great way to tell them a little bit of what’s been going on in my life, from vacations to interesting work assignments to now baby life, without the formalness and length of a letter.
Over the past year, I’ve lost two of my great-aunts and it was heartwarming to learn that they each had kept every single one of the postcards I had sent them.