Family Photo

Author: Nancy Wade

Every year for the past dozen or so years, on Thanksgiving Day, after we have toasted each other with glasses of mellow wine, tasted spicy appetizers, and carved the turkey; after we have eaten more than our share of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, roasted brussels sprouts and pumpkin pie, we gather in my son’s family room to pose for a group photo. Generally, those gathered together for this photo are the same bunch: my daughter-in-law’s parents; my stepsons and their partners, my husband and me, my daughter and her boyfriend, as well as our hosts and two grandsons. Each year, we sit or stand in the same spots on or around sectional sofa. The first few years we set up a tripod and took photos there was a lot of good-natured grumbling but now, after these many years of posing for the camera, I think we are all resigned to – and even grateful for – the annual photo shoot.

Personally, I am very grateful for the Thanksgiving family photos we have taken over the years. They are not formal portraits but they’re not casual shots either. When I lay the photo prints down, side by side, I see reflected in each much-loved face a look of permanency, of tradition, of stability and care. We generally take a few goofy photos, sticking out our tongues or flinging up our arms. But the photos I like most are those which show our family members smiling and content. For that one brief moment, we set aside the cares of the world, the stresses of everyday life, and the occasional grouchiness that periodically springs up among us throughout the year.

This year, I am especially looking forward to the group photo session. I imagine that in the years to come, when we compare the photos side by side, we will notice a gap where the 2020 photo should be. And we will all suddenly remember that 2020 was the first year of the worldwide Pandemic, the year when none of us risked stepping outside our homes to gather for Thanksgiving dinner, or for any other activity or event.

To me, these family photos represent many other things in my life for which I am grateful. I am old enough to appreciate the richness of ordinary blessings – good health, loyal friends, a stable marriage, a warm home, abundant and nourishing food, a supportive faith community, financial security, two rambunctious and loving dogs – all these good things in my life that I try not to take for granted; well, they comprise everything I am deeply grateful for during this, the beginning of the holiday season 2021.

There was a time in my life when I craved excitement and change, risk and challenge, provocative ideas, occasional conflict and unusually wacky friends. But as the years have passed, I have come to welcome and to seek out stability and tradition, certainty and reliability. I look for what is familiar, for people and events that tie me to the past, for friends whose companionship warms my soul, and for love that is steady and sure.

I am also old enough to realize that we can never truly see what is around the next corner, and that unexpected and tragic events can catch us by surprise. But for now, I dwell in that place of certainty and hope, joy and tradition, happy with the many blessings in my life.


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