It’s the most wonderful time of the year–Part 3.

December 2003, Naples, FL

My baby girl is turning fifteen this month, and as always, I’m left wondering where the time goes. Over the years, people have jokingly given me a hard time about giving birth the day after Christmas, saying things like, “Well, you didn’t plan that very well, did you?” (wink wink, nudge nudge), but I feel like I planned it just right. So far she loves having her birthday wrapped up with Christmas, and we’ve never encountered the “Oh no–her birthday and Christmas gifts are wrapped in the same paper!” drama. Not that she would mind–she honestly loves Christmas. 

But in addition to her being the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten, doing my photos with her each year has become my best gift to myself. (In case you missed parts one and two of my “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” posts, they can be found here and here.) Since she turned three, I’ve been taking photos of Holland in my wedding dress each year for her birthday, graduating from a point-and-shoot camera to a much nicer one, and moving from my bedroom or the park in our neighborhood to destinations like L.A., Miami, Disney World, Amsterdam, London, and Paris and now, this year, to New York City. It’s been an amazing journey so far. 

The downsides of this particular project are as follows: extreme nostalgia on my part; cold weather in our chosen locales that require her to wear her jeans under the dress and to let her teeth chatter dramatically as she assures me that there is no way I could possibly love her, otherwise I’d never make her put on a frilly pink dress in public and pose in front of strangers; and the inevitable squabbles between the two of us that go something like this:

Me (theatrically): “Someday I’ll be gone and you’ll be sorry that you couldn’t just pose on the Brooklyn Bridge in twenty degree weather like I wanted you to.”

Her (with eyes rolling): “But why aren’t we done yet? I’m not doing this anymore today. Seriously, Mom. I’m done.”

Her father (sternly): “Do this one thing for your mother. She never asks you for anything.”

And then, in the end, I have the photos I wanted. Some days we’ll go out and I’ll feel like I got nothing that’s even worth editing (and every December I flog myself for not taking a photography class at some point during the year that would make me more technically adept so that I wasn’t relying on luck and creativity alone), but in the end, I find that I’m thrilled with the crazy things we’ve captured and the amazing places we’ve gotten to go. If 18 ends up being the last year we do this, as planned, then I’ve only got three more years to go…and I can’t believe that.

Other than writing, this has been the biggest and most creative project I’ve undertaken, and whether or not the photos are “technically” on the mark or not, it’s something I’m really proud of. It’s a true labor of love, and I know someday she’ll look at these photos and smile fondly, forgetting that I made her stand on the steps of a church in Paris in December in a tank top while I pulled the dress on over her head, and forgetting that I made her wear the dress around Disney World and weather the stares of curious onlookers. 

Someday she’ll think it was cool and creative and fun, and maybe someday she’ll even do something similar with her own children, should she choose to have any. But at the very least, she’ll appreciate the hard work we both put into this project…hopefully while I’m still around. 😉 

Happiest holiday wishes to you and yours! 

Brooklyn Bridge 2018
Chinatown 2018
Grand Central Station 2018
Grand Central Station 2018
Central Park 2018
Central Park 2018
Central Park 2018
Central Park 2018
Central Park 2018
Statue of Liberty 2018
Manhattan Skyline 2018
Times Square 2018
Times Square 2018
Times Square 2018

My little partner in crime.

IMG_4376 2 IMG_4378

Every morning on my way to work I drive down into a mini-valley that seems to have a weather system of its own. One one side of the 4-lane highway, cows and a weathered barn sit under the diluted early morning sun; on the other side, a wide open field with one solitary tree. Most mornings I leave the house and set out in either ran or sun, but no matter what the rest of our town looks like, this particular spot has a low-hanging fog that circles the tree like a tutu around the waist of a ballerina. It’s ethereal. I’ve envisioned getting up early on a Saturday so many times as I’ve driven through, thinking that some weekend I’ll drag myself out of bed with the sun, get Holly ready, and drive down there to snap some pictures. And during spring break, I finally did it.

I didn’t quite get up with the sun, but it didn’t matter: on that particular day the fog was heavy and pressed up against the windows of my house, so I knew the valley would be swimming in haze no matter what time we got there. My husband kindly drove us to the muddy field, parked on the edge of the grass, and waited in the car with the panting, excited dog as she watched us tiptoe through the sludge and wet grass. We got a few pictures of Holly wearing a scarf from Africa (a gift from our lovely, world-traveling neighbors from Lebanon), and while it wasn’t the dreamy, golden, early-morning light that I’d dreamed of on my way to work so many times, the fog had a magical beauty all its own; I love how the images turned out.

It’s so satisfying to pull those little bits of inspiration from the corners of your mind, breathe a little life into them, and turn them into something that pleases you. And I do love my little muse (even if she did complain a little about the way the mud squished under her sandals!)