The first holiday season that Matt and I were married, I remember being a little overwhelmed by all the people everywhere when we went to his huge family functions---I remember particularly that after our first Thanksgiving together, I had to escape outside and take an hour-long walk by myself in the snow to be free of the chaos for awhile.
Being an introvert who married into a loud family, I had lots of such moments our first several family functions together. Basically, I had to consciously make myself stay longer and longer periods in the chaos to get myself used to it all, until I finally one day no longer had to consciously think about the noise---I was just okay with it.
It is a sign, I suppose, of how much I've grown in my ability to appreciate the craziness and the chaos that I can now successfully sit through (and enjoy!) around five to six hours straight of everyone talking and laughing and screaming and playing and eating.
In fact, on Christmas Day this year, it was basically one non-stop insanely loud party as we rotated from my folks' place over to Matt's folks' place, stuffing our faces with food and exchanging gifts and feeling love from all corners.
Another way I've grown over the years is that I'm now okay with not always looking for The Picture during holiday events. It used to be that I was always looking for some creative angle or absolutely perfect moment or lighting, and so I actually ended up not taking a lot of pictures of how it actually was.
I was thinking a lot about my grandma this Christmas, whom I miss dearly. She passed away almost two years ago now, and I still miss her all the time. One thing I was thinking about just before we went to all of our family Christmas parties this year was how I was so glad I just took the pictures of everyone and everything the way it was on at least a few occasions while she was still around. The pictures aren't posed or the lighting great or the photo even all that interesting to anyone who didn't know the people in it, but I treasure those few "unoriginal" pictures I took at the same events year after year---they are the ones that show the babies that were born, the people that had passed on, the girlfriends/boyfriends who entered and left the picture (and the ones that stayed around), the cousins who were on missions or deployed---
In short, they are some of the photos that, in the end, mattered the very most to me.
So forgive me, reader, because many of these pictures will not be very interesting to you.
But to me, I look at these photos and see moments frozen in time of our families---our two dynamic, loud, crazy families---captured in all of their unposed glory, forever encapsulated for me to look back on again and again.
So next time that you've made yourself the family photographer, maybe take a moment to step back and get a picture of the whole scene. Forget for a second taking one more picture of that present being opened or making that particular person smile at the camera next to their completed gingerbread house.
Instead, take a picture of your brother trying to teach his girlfriend how to play chess while nieces and nephews run screaming around them and parents are trying to figure out their kids' new toys (or at least just how to get those toys out of the packaging).
Take a picture of the children's nativity as it actually was---not making all the kids look at the camera and smile, but snapping a shot of the one lone adult shepherd trying to protect Baby Jesus from falling out of the distracted Mary's arms, and the angels looking lost as they're trying to follow everyone else in walking around the circle of gifts.
Take a picture of Grandma Goldie in all her Christmas finery as she croons one of her performing group's latest Christmas songs. Take a picture of all the others taking videos on their phones, or nuzzling their faces into the backs of baby's heads, or perhaps laughing at some quip their neighbor just said.
And for goodness sake, if your baby fits into a holiday gift bag without it breaking, take a picture of that too, by golly.
Because although these might not always be the shots that will get the most likes on Instagram or the most comments on Facebook, they will be among your most treasured photos of all.
(A big thank you to both of our families for feeding us well and spoiling us rotten and making sure that Raven was so worn out from all the fun and games and play time that she took an almost-four-nap yesterday. Hallelujah!)