The Annual Family Portrait

Sometime before we had children, although after we started thinking about it, I conceived of the idea of the annual family portrait. Not an original idea, but something that hadn’t been part of my childhood or my wife’s. Probably part of the reason I thought it would be neat.

I pictured a book somewhere with each unfolded page dedicated to the portrait of that year and flipping through that book in my old age to watch the growth of my family. The first came in 1999, a few weeks before my son’s first birthday.

And we kept the tradition going. When my oldest daughter arrived, she was automatically scheduled for the next picture.

Our youngest had to wait a little longer, though, being born early in the year.

When the kids were all smaller, it was sometimes a stressful afternoon. Try getting three little kids to sit still for the same few seconds is not exactly the easiest thing to do, and I remember one or two of the sessions taking forty minutes and a couple of dozen poses to get one good one. The year my youngest was almost four, we got a pretty good pose on the first try and took it just to avoid any of the sitting still issues we knew were coming. They’re a lot better the last couple of years, and it shows in the lack of stress and exhaustion around my wife’s eyes.

From 1999-2011 is thirteen annual portraits, but that book doesn’t exist yet. However, there are five framed photos on the outside wall of the stairs that lead from the first floor to the second and they contain the most recent five pictures, newest at the bottom. I used to joke that you could watch the growth of the kids and the recession of my hairline as you walked down the stairs. That’s still half true. We’re more than five years past the point I started pulling out the clippers every 2-3 weeks. And, since it’s going to be up year round somewhere, we’ve long since gotten over the Christmas background.

But it’s a great tradition, and we’re getting this year’s done today. I expect it to be quick, easy, and stress free. I also expect it to be even better than last year’s photo, and that it will make me sad as it once again rubs my nose in just how big my children are getting.

I’m also trying to convince my parents and sister to do a big one this year. The jury’s still out, but I’m hopeful.

As a side note, maybe someday I’ll get better with a scanner.

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