My parents have a lovely and remarkably peaceful marriage.
Growing up I rarely saw them in conflict. They generally spoke to each other with respect and almost never raised their voices in anger.
Except for one day of the year...
...the day we put up the Christmas tree.
Our Christmas season began each year with an outing to the Christmas tree farm to select the perfect noble fir. Dad would secure the tree to the roof and we'd all head home blaring carols on the radio and feeling festive.
Things would start to go downhill pretty much as soon as we got home. Dad would struggle to get the tree off the top of the car and into the house. Once inside, Mom would fret over the trail of pine needles he was leaving in his wake. But the real trouble always started as Dad would secure the base onto the tree. As he pushed it upright year after year, Mom would let him know that it wasn't straight.
Dad would crawl back under the branches to adjust the tree. As Mom's alignment instructions were translated into adjusting the three screws holding the tree in place, things would go more and more awry.
Eventually Mom's helpful suggestions became more strident and Dad's replies from under the tree became tinged with frustration.
Some years, things got pretty heated.
Eventually the tree would get aligned to everyone's satisfaction and the fight would end well before dinnertime. Holiday merriment would recommence and it would be smooth sailing until the following Christmas.
I thought David and I could avoid my parents' yearly fight by purchasing a fake tree. While our "Augusta PineTM" has the slight downside of being made of plastic, it has the major upside of being straight as an arrow right out of the box.
What I failed to anticipate was that my beloved and I would simply replace my parents' yearly holiday battle with another of our own:
David and I fight about the Holiday Card.
Each December I am determined to produce a smiling holiday greeting capturing all the joy of the season through my children's whimsical cuddling and extra-merry smiles. The problem is that I have a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a 10-month-old, which means obtaining such a photo is statistically impossible.
Understanding this reality does nothing to dim my enthusiasm -- I remain determined to try.
I am the photographer, which leaves my husband in the role of "kid wrangler". I stand behind the camera and instruct my spouse to pose the children all together in front of the tree. He does so and then rushes to stand behind me and starts yelling to get their attention and make them smile.
ME: OH! They look so cute! Our kids are the best!
HUSBAND: I know, I love Christmas!
This is pretty much when the fight gets rolling.
ME: NO! You're standing too far to the side! I need you behind me so the kids are looking at the camera!
HUSBAND: OK, OK!
ME: Honey, stop telling him to yell "CHEESE"! He looks crazy! They need to be looking at me!
HUSBAND: I'm trying!
HUSBAND: Kids! Where's the garbage truck?!
(Sons both jump up and run toward the window in search of said phantom garbage truck)
ME: Honey, what are you doing? Go get them and put them back!
HUSBAND: Here, guys! Come play with these ornaments by the tree!
ME: The baby is escaping!
HUSBAND: I see her, I see her!
ME: THEY HAVE TO BE LOOKING AT THE CAMERA!! Why did you give them ornaments??!!
HUSBAND: I thought it would help!
ME: Well, it didn't!
HUSBAND: I CAN'T CONTROL THEM!!!
ME: There goes the baby again!
HUSBAND: Alright, just hold on a second!! [Insert highly un-merry cursing]
ME: Alright that's it! Get out of the way! Get out of the way!!
HUSBAND: I don't have him in place yet!!!
ME: I don't care! This could be our only chance!!!
ME: You know what? Nevermind. Our children are terrible.
HUSBAND: I hate Christmas.
Since 2009 we're 0 for 3 on getting a usable group shot of our kids and 3 for 3 on going to bed the night of the picture-taking plotting spousal murder.
Another great holiday tradition passed down through the generations...