There should be studies made by university Family Science graduate students at family photo sessions. Perhaps more family frustration is generated during the attempt to capture the “happy family” group for posterity than at any other family function. When friends tell me that they are going to have a family picture taken I almost feel like I should take a meal in. What to wear? Where to go? Indoor or out? How much money to spend? Who will be missing in the photo, and is that acceptable? Those are some of the frustrations and issues that have to be addressed far in advance. We collect opinions, change locations, and change the time and the tee shirt color scheme so many times that on the actual day of the event relatives may struggle to remember which plan was eventually settled upon.
One year, two of my daughters had what I refer to as a “clothes war” just minutes before our scheduled appointment. We all remember the tears that flowed just before we all stood together and said, “Cheese!” The picture hung on the wall for several years to both girls’ embarrassment, until we were all together again. It now resides in photo albums throughout the family. Every once in awhile we run across it while we’re together and the same little knowing smile comes to our lips.
Now that I’m the grandma the family photo shoot is bigger and more complicated than ever, with 11 adults and 10 children. Some things never change though. Last month I attended our first family reunion completely planned by my children. On a beautiful, crispy, spring morning the 21 of us met at a very picturesque location. We had successfully made it past all the discussion about time and location and clothing color. Everyone looked fabulous. Now all that was required was to follow the directions of the photographer and smile.
Things went relatively well with the big family shot. Children stood close to parents in family groups. Moms and dads held the babies; Grandma and Grandpa were in the middle.
The next shot we wanted was a picture of just the grandkids. Things deteriorated fast. A perfect spot was chosen; three picture perfect stone steps, just the right size for the ten of them. The oldest ones had the task of holding the babies. Knowing I won’t do it justice I will attempt to describe the situation:
For at least ten minutes all the adults (parents and grandparents) stood behind the photographer trying to do what ever they could possibly do, from in front of the scene, to somehow get the kids to cooperate and smile all at the same time. I’m sure you can imagine it. Fill in the picture with the faces of your own family. The kids were bombarded with helpful suggestions like, “say cheese or ice-cream.” Then the adults tried the comedian route – making funny faces, placing rabbit ears over one another’s heads, and making noises reserved only for making children laugh. Finally came the promises – rewards and threats, not to mention the way we kept flashing them huge smiles – trying to model for them what we were going after.
But alas, the babies and the toddlers and the two year olds continued to scream, and all the rest of the children (those between age five to ten) kept looking with disgust at all the criers, instead of looking at the camera. That’s just the way it was. It never improved. That’s the picture that got taken. I wish we had a picture of the adults trying with absolutely every thing they had to convince the children to be happy against their wills. That picture remains in my mind but is no less humorous than the picture of the kids wailing and whining.
As I took in this scene, into my mind came a picture of all of us, God’s family, having a photo shoot at The Extended Family Reunion. I imagined our Father our Brother Jesus and all the Holy Angles out in front of us, the “heavenly” siblings, trying to get us all to smile and be happy. I think the final product would be very much like the one that will hang on my wall soon. It would reflect a great truth:
No matter how intent and desirous God and others are to convincing us that things are just not that bad, it is not possible for them to change us against our wills. Sometimes when things go well I hear people say, “Heaven Smiles!” According to the resent study conducted at my family reunion, it doesn’t matter how big “Heaven Smiles.”
All the angles in heaven and on earth cannot convince me to be happy against my will. The “Heavenly” Photographer and all His helpers can plan for my happiness and remind me of all the things I have to smile about, but when He says, “1, 2, 3 Smile!” It’s all up to me.
By Nannette W.
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2009
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