When is it okay to wear a turtleneck? If you answered never, you are absolutely correct, I just wish somebody had told my mom that years ago, when it came time for the annual christmas pictures with all of my cousins. I’m sure we didn’t wear matching turtlenecks each year, but it seemed like we did a lot, and when it comes to those awful shirts, one time is too many. The annual cousin christmas picture always happened the same way, like a bad case of deja vu each year. The Friday after Thanksgiving, when all the good football games were on, me and my two brothers, along with my six cousins would be taken from the comfort of my grandparents living room, to go stand outside in the cold to take a picture, that seemed to include multiple poses and variations of people standing together. I don’t remember when we stopped taking them, maybe I quit being included when I was in high school, but for the better part of my childhood and teenage years, there was a picture.
At first, when it was just me, my two brother and a couple of cousins, the pictures were taken by professionals at a photo studio in the department store of the mall, which always included at least one crying child while the photographer would say bogus words, like fuzzy pickles, in an attempt to make us smile, but conjured up an image that made me want to burst into tears. As our group grew, and more cousins were added to the mix, the professional photographers were replaced with my mom, and two aunts, who each had a camera, and the photo studio was replaced with nature. One time we stood next to an old wooden mill that churned water, another time we stood in front of a lake, and one time we stood in front of an old wooden bridge, none of which held any significance in our lives outside of the thirty minutes to an hour that we spent smiling for pictures, one afternoon out of the year. Since each parent had their own camera, photos were taken in rapid succession, quickly turning after each picture was taken to the next camera, like we were celebrities on the red carpet, making sure the paparazzi got our best side with each shot.
Although it wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, I do have one good memory of each photo shoot. Inevitably one of my cousins would be accused of faking a smile, which would result in them trying to smile again and again to no avail, and then, when my uncle was finally fed up with how long it was taking, and ready to get back to the house, he would pull the fake smiler aside and give them a spanking as encouragement to do it right the next time, and the next picture would include the tear streaked face of a cousin, trying their best to smile for real, so as not to be punished again. That alone was enough to make the pictures worth it, so perhaps this year, when Christmas rolls around, we can do it again. I’ll go ahead and practice smiling genuinely, while turning my head for each of the three cameras to get the shot.