Suffering through the 12 takes of Christmas
By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: December 8, 2016
“Come on everybody!” I bellowed from our living room, “Let’s get this over with!”
“KIDS!? HONEY!?” I yelled from behind my camera. It was perched precariously on top of a matchbook, two beer coasters, three National Geographic magazines, Roget’s Thesaurus and our coffee table — at the precise trajectory needed to capture an image of our family and the dog in front of our fireplace.
Knowing that the tiniest slip of the hand (or the dog’s tail) might ruin my painstakingly calibrated line of sight, I was reluctant to move. But when no one responded to my wails, I marched off to find them.
With only one day of Thanksgiving break left before the kids would return to their respective schools, this task had to get done. For military families who move all the time, holiday photo cards are a legitimate form of communication. We couldn’t let a year go by without one.
Twenty minutes later, I had managed to drag the resistant members of my family into the living room. My husband, Francis, was miffed that I forced him to abandon a riveting rerun of “House Hunters.” My son, Hayden, was annoyed that he had to pause “Dragon Warrior VII” just as he was about to master Ranger class. My daughter, Anna, couldn’t fathom what was so important that she had to stop texting her boyfriend. My youngest, Lilly, was pouting about being torn away from Snapchat.
But it was now or never.
“Listen! I don’t like this anymore than you do, but our family and friends have come to expect a Molinari family photo card every year, so — Backs straight! Stomachs tight! And get happy!”
My moping gaggle huddled together on the hearth in shared irritation over being forced to pose for a family photo. “Leave a spot for me on the left, and smile!” I ordered from behind my camera.
I gingerly jabbed the camera’s timer button, careful not to knock the lens from its makeshift tripod, then leaped like an overweight gazelle into my designated position.
“Mom, the camera’s blinking.”
“Honey, when do you want us to smile?”
“Are you sure you pressed the button, Mom?”
“I don’t KNOW!” I screeched through my grinning clenched teeth, “Just keep smiling!”
“But, isn’t it supposed to fl ...” *FLASH*
It took two more takes before we realized that the camera flashed after a prescribed series of slow and fast blinks. Hayden sneezed in the middle of take number four. The phone rang during take number five. I blinked in take number six. We all got the giggles in take number seven, when Francis released a pungent belch the odor of salami.
We finally realized that we forgot to include the dog, Moby, and it took two takes, three pieces of cheese and a tennis ball before he would agree to sit. Somewhere along the way, I inadvertently nudged the June 2014 issue of National Geographic, and it took me 20 minutes and three more ruined takes to get the family centered in the viewfinder again.
On take number 13, we were so desperate to end our tortuous holiday photo odyssey, we all agreed to cooperate to take one final, flawless shot.
With my last ounce of patience, I tapped the button with catlike precision and pounced into position, tipping my jaw forward to hide my double chin. The kids replaced their fake grins with genuine sparkling smiles. Francis leaned behind me to hide his now sweat-stained armpit. Moby sat, in perfect obedience, his ears handsomely perked.
Like the townspeople of Bethlehem, we looked for the bright light that would finally bring us salvation ...
“Why didn’t it flash?” Francis whispered.
After another minute, Lilly extracted herself from our frozen pose to check the camera.
Peering at the digital display, she read aloud, “ ‘Change battery pack.’ ”
Realizing that a flawless family photo was never going to happen, we decided that one of the 12 takes would have to do, because reality is as perfect as a family gets.