Family portrait

Little kids wiggle, look away, cry, make faces and pick their noses. They are unable to sit, smile and say ‘cheese’ for the photographer. We take a lot of shots to hopefully get one good portrait. These days, with six married children, 18 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren in five northern, southern and eastern states, it’s nigh unto impossible to gather all in one place for a picture. Even capturing a shot of our six adult children is not easy.
In the early 1980s we had one baby, one high school graduate, and four in-between. I held the baby so she faced the camera. Through frozen smiles we commanded, “Stand stand still until the camera’s timer clicks.
They look happy in the print. Prints don’t capture our words.
In the mid-1980s: the graduate joined the military, added a wife and two daughters. Another graduated, and photos of all six and their families in the same room at the same time did not happen. Formal photographs show only the four children at home.
In the 1990s: As the youngest grew older, group shots dwindled to whoever we could find to pop into “just us” pictures. Once kids graduate from high school and get a job, they don’t drive a couple hours, let alone across state borders, for a family photo shoot.
In 2000, we held a family reunion celebrating my husband’s 60th birthday. Our college students and young parents with two in car seats made the long drive north. We passed out coordinating sweatshirts, lined up families and took a lot of pictures of everyone – except the two grandchildren who stayed at home.
Eighteen months later, at the youngest son’s wedding we had our first and only photo shoot with the entire extended family. We also posed with our six children dressed in black suits and wedding gowns. I was so proud to have those pictures.
The following two years we had two more weddings. Each time one or another of the six did not make it.
In 2006, a family reunion of my extended family promised to be one time we would have all six families together … until one entered a long term treatment program. At the reunion, 74 of the 75 people there lined up by families. One of our six wandered away as parents posed with squirming children. We smiled, said “cheese” and photo shopped the wanderer into the picture.
What is it with our six and their families? Can’t they stand still? Evidently not. At the next three summer family weddings at least one of the six and their family failed to make the wedding or the family pictures.
We tried family reunions during schools’ winter vacations and only to learn our UPS employee had to work overtime from fall to early January.
This year we fixed that. We went to the UPS man’s house. Five families drove up to 15 hours across six state lines ­ while the three week-old great-grandchild entered the hospital with respiratory distress. Grown grandchildren had other plans for New Years Eve, so again, no big family picture with everyone in it.
We did, however, have all six of our adult children together briefly on New Year’s Day. We quickly arranged them by age and took our first group shot since the 2001 wedding.
Last week I ordered prints for my gallery of family pictures. Perhaps someday we will gather everyone for a family photograph. Until then, I am proud of the photographic proof that our adult children made the time to come together, stand still, smile and say ‘cheese’.