Every year it’s the same.
Some people fear getting trampled to death while Black Friday shopping.
Others stress about not finding whatever version of Elmo it is you are supposed to buy.
But my greatest holiday fear?
The Christmas card.
I’m not talking about the boxes of Christmas cards you can go to any store and buy. That’s easy. You just decide if you want to be religious – Mary/Joseph/baby Jesus on front, or cute – a dog wearing reindeer antlers, or nothing with a generic “Happy Holidays.”
I’m talking about the elusive photo Christmas card.
You see, before you have the photo Christmas card, you have to have the photo. The perfect family Christmas photo.
I figure I must be missing something. People must have better lives, better children, or better abilities at Photoshop.
I’ve been trying to get “the perfect Christmas card” for 6 years now.
When you live in the reality that is divorce and remarriage with kids, first you have to find a time when all of you are together.
This magical thing happened, when the planets aligned – not only were we all together, we were all in Church clothes. Of course, none of us matched in the slightest. I was wearing plaid. The teenage boy was sporting a retro cardigan. One girl was wearing a cherry print, and the other, floral. The Pastor was in his clerical collar. I figured at best our photo would come off as a nice minister who had stopped to help out a rag-tag bunch.
Thankfully, I had not allowed the youngest girl to wear what she wanted to wear that morning. Her idea of proper church attire? Leather shorts. Leg warmers. Long, feather earrings. And I quote her: “I can rock this look.” No, dear. I’m pretty sure you can only “rock that look” if you are streetwalking. If you are a 12 year old girl, you cannot rock that look. At least not under my watch!
I had the realization that we were not only altogether, but half-way decently dressed, driving down the road. I told the Pastor we had to act fast. What happened next I’m sure was like having to race to get on the last helicopter out of Saigon. The Pastor pulled into a parking lot, screeched to a halt and we all ran to take pictures outside. It was even a decent day weather-wise. With this series of events happening, we were either going to get the perfect family picture or the world was about to end. I checked my phone to see if this was one of those dates predicted for the rapture.
The Pastor hurriedly set up his tripod – yes he carries it in his backpack all the time. We turned the timer on and just took shot after shot with the theory being we might get one decent picture.
Sure the 12 year old had some moments when she completely forgot how to smile and was making weird looking faces. And the 14 year old panicked at how to stand in front of the camera. And between each exposure, the Pastor and I were yelling at them, telling them to move here and there – screaming as though they might not make it aboard the helicopter and out of the war-torn country.
It doesn’t end with the picture. Once you get that, you have to attempt to order the cards. Here’s how that works. You go to various websites and look at design, after design, after design. There is an infinite number of possibilities. Cards range in price from roughly $0.01 - $15.00 per card. Inevitably, the ones you will like will be the $15.00 per card card. Once you find a card in your price range, it will need a vertical picture, and you will only have a good horizontal one. Or it is a card that will hold 4 pictures, and you need five.
Once you have managed to find the 1 card out of 27,382 that has the layout and number of pictures you need, and doesn’t say Happy Hannukuh (for a moment you will contemplate converting to Judaism, for it will make ordering cards easier) you will begin the process of dropping your pictures into the layout.
First you kiss your husband goodnight and grab an energy drink because you are in for an all-nighter. After you somehow manage to get the right pictures in the right slots you have to put a message or your names in a text box. Whatever you want to say, or however many names you have, it will be too many letters. You will all of a sudden give one kid a nickname they’ve never had, because it will fit on the card. Don’t even think about trying to change the font, you will want to get at least 30 minutes sleep.
I’m not bragging here. I’ve got a college degree. I went to vo-tech for a year. I’ve given birth to a child. I’ve held professional jobs, including one that required me to manage and be responsible for a number of employees. Why is it so hard to order a Merry freakin’ Christmas card?
You’ve managed to order the cards. Once they come in, you will be faced with the arduous task of addressing the envelopes. Your husband will ask you approximately every 30 minutes if “you’ve gotten the Christmas cards done.” You know, in all your spare time.
You finally finish. Then comes the stamping, the return address labels and the trip to the post office. Then over the next series of weeks, you will receive at least one returned in the mail every day because as it turns out you don’t actually know where anyone lives.
But I did it. You’d think for this, and for making the delicious Thanksgiving meal (all by myself) and wrapping the gifts and the shopping I’d deserve something extra special in my stocking this year. I know I'm not going to get any presents, so I’ll just settle for never, ever having to see the 12 year old wear leather booty shorts and leg warmers. Thanks, Santa.