There is a family photo that we cherish. We cherish, of course, the tens of thousands of photos we have taken over time. We have, however, one photo that has become legend.
It shows Boywonder, at 2, holding Girlwonder, an infant. In it, he smiles jauntily for the camera. He is wearing a Santa hat — that year’s Christmas miracle was keeping it on his head long enough for me to snap that shot. In this photo with the aforementioned Santa hat, he is also holding his sister, around the neck. She is, of course, crying.
Frozen in time
It’s a moment captured. I can still remember it. I can remember fussing with her red velvet jumper — it had been mine at her age, too.
I remember thinking shoes would be cute, but she pulled them off her feet, so she is wearing only tights. For his part, he is dressed like a tiny octogenarian in a snazzy sweater vest and corduroy slacks. Their hands are sticky because they were still young enough to be bribed with the candy canes they would later realize they did not love.
This photo kicks off the next decade plus of Christmas memories. “Some assembly required.” Remembering to nibble the cookies for Santa and sip the too-warm milk. Reindeer food, endless reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” preschool pageants, bell choirs and church plays.
Candy canes were purchased for looks and tradition, not because anyone even liked them.
Memorable year. There was one memorable year of tickets to The Polar Express and that magical late-night ride. There was cold and cocoa and sing-alongs in pajamas. There was the forever memory of wide-eyed wonder as the actual Santa bent low to speak to them and sign their cherished copy of The Polar Express story.
If asked, Mr. Wonderful and I will both agree that year marked the pinnacle of wonder and joy. There came, later, years of electronics and clothing, gift cards and cash. My children are both selfless and sensitive and very good about giving to others. Neither makes expensive, or extensive, requests. Their requests are reasonable and increasingly adult. They are also realizing that gasoline, girlfriends and boyfriends are not free.
The table stays set, the tree stays decorated, the kids are grown or almost so and able to help with the cooking and shopping. Really help. Not the “I helped,” which is adorable but makes extra work and photo opps in equal measure.
This year Girlwonder and her boyfriend, also known as “Our Handholders,” helped decorate for Christmas. I appreciate their help. They are angelic, blonde, and prone to bursting out in random song. The baby who once necessitated our having the tree bare of decorations halfway down because she would bat off all the bright, shiny ornaments, now works to put the decorations up.
Nowadays, Boywonder hugs her in photos and she doesn’t cry. He also carries the heavy boxes, helps hang lights, and is our go-to guy when Mr. Wonderful isn’t around. The sounds of our seasons include the repeated use of the phrase, “Get Matt.” Their wish lists are shorter than ever. A child saying, wisely, “we have most things we want and everything we need” is a gift to any parent. These are the holidays that we dreamed about once upon a time.
All is calm. The future is bright.
Just every once in awhile, however, I would give anything to turn the corner and find a daring duo, he in a Santa cap and she in a red velvet jumper eyeing her chance to forcibly part the tree from its lights. Days pass, years pass, children grow and times change. We hold on to the memories and pray for the opportunity to make new ones.
We appreciate when all is calm and pray that all — and the future — is bright.
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