I probably have more pictures of my daughter at 20 months than I have of my entire childhood. Every month when I sit her on the couch to take her monthly photo I have to take 15 of them just to get a shot without a blurry arm or an odd facial expression.
It's obviously easier to craft the way we want to remember something nowadays. We pick and choose what we want people to see and that becomes part of the experience. If we don't like it we just shoot another one. Em is too young to remember these moments herself, so these are the photos that will tell her how things were. Will the toddlers of today grow up to think they truly had "picture perfect" childhoods?
We visited Santa twice this year to get the perfect shot. The first time we waited in line for 30 minutes and just as we were about to go in a family of five came back to redo their photos. That was it - the dam broke and there was no sucking back those tears. She cried on my lap and Santa calmly reassured me that it happens all the time. He said we should just come back every weekend and let her say hello to him until she's ready.
Theoretically this is nice. Just come back and say hello to Santa. But at this Santa you must take a number and that number will just give you permission to get on the line where you will then wait for another hour to grace the Big Man's presence. But we came back the next weekend and this time we got the shot. The perfect Norman Rockwell shot to go with the perfect fluke Norman Rockwell shot we got last year. The pressure is now on to keep them up - year after year. Same Santa, slightly bigger Em.
This past weekend, we went to the LA Zoo. Elmo and Cookie Monster were doing a meet and greet. After waiting 45 minutes for a bagel sandwich at a nearby cafe, then sitting in traffic to then circle the parking lot looking for a magical free spot, I was very close to losing it completely. (Full disclosure, I had actually already lost it at the restaurant, but I managed to get it back together on the way to the zoo.)
But we got in line, the end of which thankfully started in a shady spot, as the sun was really out in full force. And we waited. We could see Elmo and Cookie in the distance. In the time we were there they traded off twice, taking turns to meet the kids. Each time one of them reappeared they were greeted like rock stars - a general hum and cheer rippling through the crowd.
Em would point and wave and told us she was going to hug them when we got up front. But anticipation is not the same as reality. When it was finally our time to meet Elmo - she took one look at this eight foot tall monster and freaked out.
You only get one shot at something like this. Thirty seconds to get it right. That wasn't going to happen. I handed over my iphone quickly and the woman taking pictures snapped a series of my kid screaming her head off, Elmo attempting to put a reassuring hand on her shoulder -just making it worse. And then we were escorted away - the old boot to the face Christmas Story style. An hour for a minute - the end. As we stepped away and Elmo faced his next victim, Em turned back and waved goodbye. Whatever bothered her was in the past. But we'll always have the photo to remember it by.