My mom loved a good family photo. If one popped up on social media or via text, you bet your ass you were getting a coffee mug, mousepad, blanket, phone case, wall plaque, coasters, and a set of pint glasses with that picture on it for the next 7 Christmases.
Occasionally she would go old school and print it out and frame it. Like this one I came across when I was home for the holidays.
Hmm, I thought. I don’t remember us going to downtown Seattle to see Christmas lights. The only time we did that it was not such a good time. Clearly these people were having fun! They were making memories! Starting traditions! You could practically smell the peppermint infused cocoa on their breath. Wait, that’s definitely Bailey’s wafting off the mom.
But that was definitely us. And that was the downtown Macy’s Christmas star so the time of year and place could be identified. And then it hit me. It was a shitty night! And to round out the shittiness of the evening, Bart and I forced the child to take one goddamn selfie in front of that goddamn Christmas star and goddamn it if I wasn’t going to post that shit on social media for the whole goddamn world to see. Look at that happy, festive family making some goddamn Christmas memories! LOOK AT US.
The picture lied. The reality of that day went something like this:
Bart and I thought it would be fun to take the child downtown to look at lights, have dinner, eat junk food, ride the carousel, visit the Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont Park Hotel, see the gingerbread creations at the Sheraton, crowd into Pacific Place mall at 6PM sharp to be covered in fake sudsy, snow while the tinny sounds of carols played through a subpar sound system with stranger’s elbows jammed into your kidneys as we all raised our smart phones to take festive selfies TO CAPTURE THE GODDAMN MEMORIES. If someone’s internal organ gets bruised in the process, so be it!
The child had other plans. He didn’t want to go. He wanted to watch YouTube. It was cold outside. Why couldn’t he look at lights on YouTube? He doesn’t like teddy bears. Maybe another time? Like tomorrow? He’s tired. He’s already seen Christmas lights. And teddy bears. Can’t we just order a Zeke’s pizza and be done with it?
But Bart and I can’t read a room so we said, INTO THE CAR WITH YOU! We let him bring his stupid iPad, but only for the 7 minute drive downtown.
I was excited. They don’t call me Mama Christmas for nothing. And for the record, only 3 people have called me that. The 3 people who joined us on a trip to Leavenworth, WA four years ago. Mama Christmas couldn’t wait for her child to BE AMAZED as the whole town of Leavenworth lit up at night! Leavenworth is the inside of a snow globe. It’s a Hallmark holiday movie come to life. It was even snowing, for christ sake! But alas, the child was not impressed. In fact, he cried. He begged to go home. Mama Christmas was devastated and cranky. How could the offspring of Mama Christmas not love Christmas? Two days later the child was diagnosed with Hand-food-and-mouth disease. Oops. Mama Christmas CANNOT READ A ROOM.
So maybe this downtown excursion was a do-over? What kid doesn’t want to experience all the commercialized magic Christmas has to offer? Well, my kid. It just wasn’t his night. He thought the teddy bears were creepy, gingerbread was gross, cocoa was too hot and peppermint too minty. Seen one giant 160 foot Christmas stars and you’ve seen them all. No one was having fun that night. I think we even skipped dinner. But we did get that one photo and my mom and 87 of my Facebook friends who didn’t know the backstory freakin’ loved it.
Every photo on social media tells a story. Some are fictional stories and some are very creative nonfiction. WE KNOW THIS! And yet, I always fall prey to these perfectly curated snippets this time of year. I love the holidays! It’s really important that my kid has great memories like I did as a child. Scrolling through feeds, looking at the holiday gatherings of friends (and the 549 interior designers and architects I follow on Instagram), I find myself thinking, Damn, look at them getting a head start on that whole making memories thing. We should bake more or entertain more or AirBnB the entirety of the Faroe Islands for all our friends and family to spend the month of December.
Don’t get me wrong. We do our thing. We have our traditions. We are having fun. But social media always makes your things feel subpar. No one is posting the videos of the screaming match they got into with their partner over how many inches to cut from the Christmas tree trunk. No one feels sentimental about detangling 193 strands of non-LED Christmas lights. No one talks about how they didn’t have baking soda or vanilla but were determined to bake cookies anyway that no one ate because apparently a teaspoon of vanilla is more important to a cookie than calcium is to a bone so all 93 were slammed into the trash and everyone went to bed in tears. But that picture of all you in your matching aprons with dollops of flour on the tips of your nose? Priceless! GET AFTER THOSE MEMORIES, GIRL!
Oh, there’s definitely a story there. Just maybe not the one you are lead to believe. But that’s okay. Post that shit because you might even trick yourself with like I almost did. And one day, 40 years from now, the child might come across this picture and think, Wow, what great parents I have, taking young, grateful me downtown to see the Christmas lights and bedbug ridden teddy bears. I must have loved that!
That’s how the whole making memories thing works.