Sunday, December 21, 2014

The annual family holiday portrait: bloody nose edition

A version of this column first appeared in The Dallas Morning News and on DallasNews.com. Please check out the site.
------------


As we drove toward the oversize closet in the department store, fancifully called a portrait studio, my wife and I briefed our three sons.

No fighting, we said. No goofy faces. And no horseplay, a word that has been ready to roll in my frontal lobe since having multiple kids.

Given enough reminders, and sometimes bribes, the boys usually behave well. But the window of opportunity is small for the annual family photo, which goes in an album and gets sent out with Christmas cards. (Just so you know, we don’t include one of those obnoxious holiday brag letters. I think the photo clearly shows that my kids have genius IQs and are working on a cure for cancer.)

My wife and I were part of annual family portraits growing up, and we’ve continued the tradition despite living in the photo-saturated digital age. It’s nice to have one family portrait that serves as a sort of yearly steppingstone through our memories. My wife looks at the portraits from her childhood and can remember, through haircuts, clothing, smirks and smiles, all kinds of things that were going on then. I can do the same, and also pinpoint the start of the awkward years of my childhood, which have blended seamlessly into awkward years of adulthood.

* * *

My kids don’t like posing for the photo, so the clock is ticking when we walk into the studio. The goal is a photo in which everyone is smiling and looking great. But I’ll settle for a photo in which most of us are smiling, or at least not smirking, or at least looking toward the camera, or at least not snapped in a mid-blink look of intoxication.

As time passes during the photo session, I lower my standards. “Just take the picture,” I telepathically message the photographer as he or she moves us around, tries different poses and fiddles with the lights or the backdrop. Forget the attempts at perfection. Just … (smiling through gritted teeth) … take the picture.

If you don’t take the picture in the first 10 minutes, it’s like the clock striking midnight on Cinderella. Our 12-year-old’s smile goes from sweet and natural to forced and plastic. My 9-year-old’s smile and dimple will morph into a look of surprise or “what’s that smell?” My 6-year-old, generally Mr. Photogenic, can lock into this intense stare in which he appears to be trying to melt the camera. They all start looking like malfunctioning puppets, and I probably look worse.

I looked worst of all this year when the photographer, in a burst of creativity, suggested that my wife jump on my back for a photo. I thought the photographer was joking, especially since the studio was already behind schedule, as portrait studios always seem to be. Through the door to the waiting area, I heard a baby crying, getting warmed up for his or her shining/torturous moment in the studio.

As my wife jumped on my back for the piggyback photo, I’m sure my kids were thinking, wait a second, isn’t that horseplay? So … are we now allowed to jump on each other’s backs? Can we spin around on the stool? Pull down the backdrop?

* * *
Fortunately, the kids held off on the horseplay until we left the studio. We ended up with a family portrait that is pretty good, and as far as accurately freezing a moment in time, it’s close to perfection.

Look closely and you’ll see, on my 6-year-old’s red sweater, a small dark spot. What’s that from? Well, on the way to the portrait studio, here’s what Nathan called out from the middle of the minivan:

“I’ve got a bloody nose!”

Of course he did. There had been no bloody noses in several months, despite a considerable amount of horseplay. And now, a few miles from our annual visit to the oversized closet in the department store, Nathan was looking up, sniffling and looking like a boxer who’d absorbed a hard jab.

The bleeding stopped quickly, and amazingly, Nathan cleaned up nicely for the photo. It could’ve been much worse. The spot is barely noticeable. And you know, I’m glad that the spot is at least a little noticeable.

Now our small Christmas miracle is frozen in time forever.

***
You can use the buttons above to share the column. Click "Follow
@wixonhumor" to get a Twitter update for new columns. To get columns by e-mail, type your address in the box under "Receive columns by e-mail" near the top right of this page. Thanks!

 
ARCHIVED COLUMNS

Humor Me: A questionnaire for your crazy roommate
Humor Me: If you could, would you be a kid again?
Humor Me: Calculating your own personal heat index
Humor Me: For queen, Olympic smile would be royal pain
Humor Me: The official 2012 Summer Olympics viewers guide
Humor Me: Truth in customer service
Humor Me: 12 CDs for the price of 1 (with nothing more to buy!)
Humor Me: Well-versed on the Fourth of July
Humor Me: Yes, my 4-year-old fainted at the hospital when he thought his mom had been turned into a robot
Humor Me: Happy Father's Day, buffoons of America
Humor Me: Zooey Deschanel, the iPhone and ugh ...
Humor Me: Lights, camera, spell it or else
Humor Me: Man's best friend at any age
Humor Me: When American Idol kicked me out
Humor Me: 90s music in commercials
Humor Me: Soft-serve ice cream and Wal-Mart greeters
Humor Me: One light goes out ...
Humor Me: 20-year high school reunion
Humor Me: Neiman Marcus' Christmas Book
Humor Me: Warning, this is a commercial
Humor Me: Public speaking nightmares
Humor Me: Sleeping on the job
Humor Me: Vacationing with the kids
Humor Me: Signing day at Barnes & Noble
Humor Me: Yoga dropout
Humor Me: Your kid won't be famous
Humor Me: Lover, find your match
Humor Me: Diary of a 1-year-old
Humor Me: It's time for Girl Scout cookies
Humor Me: New Year's Resolutions
Humor Me: Attention frantic shoppers
Humor Me: Here come the carolers
Humor Me: Christmas decorating tips
Humor Me: Holiday brag letter
Humor Me: Dude, I'm getting old
Humor Me: A life of trick-or-treating
Humor Me: Where's the actual cat?
Humor Me: The best gift for a kid is not this
Humor Me: Welcome to autumn in Texas
Humor Me: This might not be a drill
Humor Me: My old friend needs some help
Humor Me: You could be huge in the luge
Humor Me: An appointment men hate
Humor Me: Red, white and Rubik
Humor Me: Your Father's Day future
Humor Me: Swimming with the kids
Humor Me: Spelling out success
Humor Me: So long, old friend
Humor Me: Planning a cheapskate vacation
Humor Me: Florence, Minn., population 61
Humor Me: You'll love summer camp ... really!
Humor Me: Surviving cubicle life
Humor Me: The lost Kit Kat opportunity

Humor Me: Taxing times for Americans
Humor Me: Retirement won't be a tearjerker
Humor Me: A degree in schmooze
Humor Me: Dawdling to a better life
Humor Me: Spring cleaning for the brain
Humor Me: Bring on the energy drinks
Humor Me: Your baby needs an airbrush
Humor Me: Memories don't bite the dust
Humor Me: Celebs rule elections, too
Humor Me: Baby, it's a world of wonders
 
a