If you are ever looking for a last minute gift idea, do not; I repeat do NOT ask me or our daughter Faith. If you ask us, you might get suggestions like “well, your wife always wanted a sun room, you should build that this weekend” or “maybe you could teach yourself to knit, and then you could knit your husband a sweater.” We are not dissuaded by little things like the lack of time, materials, knowledge or experience. Once we decide that our idea is a good idea, we are bound and determined to make the attempt. I’m not sure how I came to be this way, but Faith never had a chance. She obviously inherited my “we can do this” spirit and she was encouraged by a sculpture professor in art school. She asked him where she could get steel for a project:
Prof: “Do you have a car?“
Prof: “Do you know where Plainville is?“
Prof: “OK, so get a car and then drive to Plainville. There’s a junkyard there that sells steel and they give very good prices to pretty women“
To this day, “get a car and drive to Plainville” is our way of mocking the impossible.
Earlier in the month, I prepared an entry for our company’s Holiday Door Decorating Contest. I decided to turn my door into a map of Connecticut, from the town where I live to the town where I work. Both towns are on the banks of the CT River and I have tons of pictures of winter scenes along the river. In addition to pictures of bridges, ice flows and buildings reflected in the frozen river, I included pictures of my family. Because we treat them like family, I included all of the dogs and cats we have ever shared our house with. One of the dogs, Mollie, joined us after digital photography had taken over from film and passed away in 2013. We have hundreds of pictures of Mollie, but they are on hard drives or they are shared online – we didn’t have any actual pictures of Mollie. When I was printing the photos for my door, I printed two extra pictures of Mollie and gave them to my wife. I think she cried. If she didn’t cry, she came close and it was clear that she really did like having the pictures; real pictures that you could hold and share and write on the back of and carry with you or keep in a special place. I knew that somehow this would be a good gift idea.
I didn’t share the idea with my daughter immediately. I needed to think about it, to perfect it. Then we had a snow storm. Then there were a few holiday parties and some last minute tasks at work. I finally mentioned the idea to Faith on the 19th. Of course my idea was to print photos that we knew my wife would like, from the time we made the switch to digital. If you look at just our Flickr accounts, we have over 7,000 photographs between us and there are more on an abandoned SnapFish account and there are many, many more we’ve never shared online. Clearly Faith wasn’t thinking that this idea was perfect. After much debate, we decided to prepare a single photo album and to limit the content to photos from 2013. Faith bought an album that holds 160 photos (plus a cover shot) and we each agreed to print our half at our respective Walgreens. I printed 102 and Faith printed 105. Faith was an art major, but I should have been able to do that math better.
We started assembling the album at 2:30 on Christmas Eve. We organized it by subject and trips that started near home, drifted out and returned to pictures of family and pets. We spent about an hour culling the 46 pictures we had no place for. I had a group of 5 pictures of Faith speaking at an event. I liked one, but I mistakenly told Faith that she reminded me of Sarah Palin in it. We had about 6 or 8 pictures of bees, but we convinced ourselves that my wife would like all of them – “mom would like this because…” We stumbled onto a pile of 10 pictures that Faith included from a trip to Gettysburg in 2012. We decided to set those aside for a future album (I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned that – sorry).
Next we struggled to arrange the 160 chosen into groups of 2 or 4. Of course we hadn’t thought about pagination when selecting photos to print and we had several subjects where we only had one photo. I included a picture of Dealey Plaza taken from my hotel room in Dallas that shows the ‘x’ someone keeps painting on the spot where JFK was shot. Faith wanted to print a picture she has on Flickr of me standing in the place where I had been as a child when I heard that JFK had been shot. Her picture was taken in 2009 and the concept was creepy so I vetoed the idea. We decided to pair the picture of Dealey Plaza with a picture of the shoes Faith took for a 3-day trip to Florida. We decided that the cars look like shoes and the walls in the hotel look like buildings so they go together.
This is how the process played out, until about 7:30. Then Faith said “we have to write something at the front of the album and we have to write something for each
photo.” We compromised – we wrote something at the front and by 8:00 we were done.