Monday, November 14, 2011

11.14.11 Traditions

We all grew up with traditions, right? The Christmas dinner, the Thanksgiving football game, the New Years Day resolutions...there are a myriad of ways that traditions help us celebrate. The holidays are a time when those traditions are usually embraced and work to kind of connect the dots of your life and remind you that you belong to something bigger, something more important than a date on the calendar or a mob of determined shoppers. Well, just like most other things in a family's life upon the arrival of a child, those holiday family traditions often need to be, let's just say, adjusted slightly. In the case of the special needs child, it often means not just hanging the glass ornaments on the Christmas tree a little higher for a few years, but rather the whole tree...and when it gets to come back to the anybody's guess. This is where it helps to not only be creative, but also to be ridiculously optimistic. "Who said you can't hang a Christmas tree on the wall anyway?" One look in a current Crate and Barrel catalog will give one a number of good ideas so this is one change that is fast becoming trendy....However, the holiday family photo, you know, the one that is usually of just the kids and then gets plastered on at least 40+ holiday cards and mailed around in substitution of a REAL greeting alive and well.

Everyone is older now, but things haven't changed that much!

This is probably one of the moments during the holidays that Maxwell's disabilites are at the forefront for me, weirdly enough. (This is of course beside the moment when he quietly makes his way onto the unsuspecting neighbor's living room coffee table and starts doing his break dancing spins, leaving anyone witnessing such bravado with feelings of both admiration and horror, not to mention anything that was on the table now on the floor.) I think this aspect of the holidays is difficult for me because I am in a position to take a part of my life that is for the most part 'normalized' and present it to an audience for whom it is not normalized. I could just not send photos it is true, but I am also hell-bent on making sure that Max stays in the picture...literally and figuratively when it comes to our circle of family and friends.

It is hard to take a photo of Max that conveys his likeness accurately. His eyes move around, often rolling back just a bit too far, his body positions are often akward, and capturing this moment is not only a "come to Jesus" moment for me every time it happens, it is also not really the way he is in real time. Seems simple enough to get over in the short term, yet it is so much more than just a portrait of your kids I've come to realize. Captured in that photo we send 'round the circle of family and friends is a story. It contains a narrative of how we want to be percieved by others. It is a photo that is chosen for some reason or the other, whether it is the one that makes mom, (who is usually the one who does the cards), look the thinnest, or the one that shows the happy family-together vacation, or the one that the professionals took of the kids all gussied up or even the one that is purposfully low-key and casual. No matter how you look at it, there is more riding on these holiday photos than just a random graphic update. This idea, while not something I spend much time considering at any other time of the year becomes present for me when I have to choose a photo of Max. I find myself struggling between a photo that makes Max look less funky, (eyes straight ahead for example) and one that shows him in a happy place( usually upside down with a spoon in his mouth)...sometimes I am lucky and I get both...but it is rare.

Getting a good photo of all three of our kids at the same time is nearly impossible. We've tried all different ways and it was easier when Max and his little sister were younger, so for now I go about my holiday routine not necessarily thinking that I will get one, but I keep trying... on the off chance I'll catch a moment. Sometimes it pays off in interesting ways to be an optimist.

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