A book exists at my mom’s house that holds 31 photos. I always thought there would end up being more than 31, but that’s all the book holds.
Every fall starting in 1974 we would take a family photo that was mailed with a Christmas card to friends and relatives. The photos were then collected in a small coffee table book that sat in the living room. The first was in 1974 and was just me and my parents. In 1978 Kate came along and the annual shot had four people, followed in 1980 by a blond baby girl named Anne.
Like clockwork, every year the routine was the same. When the holidays approached my mom would round everyone up when we were all together (a difficult task as we got older) and take a photo with everyone or kids only. 1985 was one of my favorites as I was an 11-year-old David Lee Roth with sunglasses and slicked back hair and my sisters were band members singing “California Girls.” 1986 was the three kids on the beach in Bermuda, and the 1990’s brought the inclusion of pets to the photo shoot and included the 20 pound black cat named Zach and a poorly behaved energetic black Labrador retriever who occasionally responded to the name Jenni.
There was no dress code or matching outfit routine for us to follow. The point was a group shot, one family, our family, together and smiling. Over time, the book grew one photo a year. Then, suddenly, life intervened.
My parents divorced after 33 years of marriage, Anne chose an alternative lifestyle that everyone didn’t understand or accept and Kate got involved in both situations. Myself, I tried to make the best of everything, but was largely unsuccessful.
The last family photo was taken in 2004 and the prospects for another any time soon are slim. At the time, the significance of the annual pose didn’t really strike me. Every few years I’d flip through the album that collected the shots and chuckle, but it wasn’t a big deal. Now, everything is different. I miss the click of the camera taking the photo every fall and adding pages to the book as time marches forward. I find it hard to believe that it is over.
The lesson from this chain of events is simple, but profound. I believe every once in a while we all need to step back and appreciate the people and things around us that are most important. While I have 31 photos in a book of memories and am grateful, it is a book that I was not ready to have end.