Tonight I went back through the picture albums on my computer to look at old Christmas pictures – all the way back to 2006. Fourteen years of different Christmas celebrations. They all felt the same from year to year, but the pictures tell a different story.
The babies got older. Some years, we had lots of out-of-town sisters; some years, it was just the four younger kids. The meals were different. And as the years progressed, there were fewer pictures because people kept protesting to “stop taking pictures.”
But as I watched one 19-second blurry video of us decorating the tree, I wished more than anything that it was longer. I wished there were more of them. I wished that when my dad said it was Bing Crosby that we were listening to, and I said, “No, it’s Frank Sinatra” that my voice didn’t sound irritated. I wished that I had more pictures of Christmases from more recent years to remember every last minute we shared with him.
Sometimes it feels silly to be taking pictures of the table and the desserts or to be taking a video of the game that you’re playing after dinner. Sometimes you wish you looked better for the pictures or you wish that your holiday decorations looked nicer.
But when you look back at the pictures in years to come, you aren’t looking for a Pinterest-level Christmas. You’re looking at the new kinds of desserts that you tried out that you forgot about. You’re looking at the sweet moment of auntie and nephew in front of the Christmas tree. You’re looking at your dad and brother singing Christmas carols together. You’re looking at the piles of presents under the tree – some wrapped in fancy paper and bows, and some wrapped in newspaper and duct tape.
When I look back at those pictures, I see the saga of who I was over all those Christmases. The happy, carefree girl at the CYT Encore events, all dressed up and laughing with her friends. Then the sad girl playing Scrabble with the family on Christmas day, wishing she had a boy of her own to share it with. Then the Christmas Eve pictures, all dressed up with the sister who always came home for Christmas, no matter how far away. Then the years when that girl got her own place, and she started her own Christmas traditions and decorations.
They all tell a story. A story of memories and traditions; lots of emotions and good food; a family who was by no means perfect, but who loved to be together. And I’m so grateful to have the pictures to remember it all by.
This Christmas will be different – for the first time without my father to celebrate it with. I’ve already shed many tears thinking about his absence. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be beautiful. Because the spirit that my father left behind in his family will still live on. We’ll still read the Christmas story before opening presents – laugh a lot while playing games – sing Christmas carols together – enjoy delicious meals and desserts – and we’ll still cherish being together, because that’s the kind of family he created with my mother.
And I want to take as many pictures and videos as I can to record the memories. They won’t be perfect – but then, when is life ever perfect? It’s the imperfections that we delight in laughing about years later – like when we all got each other duplicate gifts that one year – or when we tried that new recipe and it utterly flopped – or when we ordered pizza on Christmas Eve that one year and tipped the pizza delivery person more than what the pizza cost.
So I encourage you to do the same. Keep your phone close by, take lots of pictures whether people are looking or not, and capture the small moments of a day of celebration. You don’t ever have to post the pictures online for others to see – but take them and keep them as a beautiful memorial of another year of memories. Someday you’ll look back and wish that you had just a few more to remember it by.