I love Christmas. I love it with the fiery heat of a blazing winter fire and a million twinkling fairy lights. I love the sparkle and the twinkle and the plum pudding and the eggnog and the tinsel and the gift wrap and the stockings and the carols and the hymns and the stories, all the stories, every single one, from the manger to the magi to old St. Nicholas to the Grinch (spare me the pieties about not telling tales to children. A childhood without the magic of stories, woven so brilliantly as to obscure the lines between fact and fiction, make-believe and make-of-that-what-you-will, is no childhood at all, in my opinion.) I love it, all of it, the snow-globe perfection of it, the gentle sheen of protective glass over perfect, brilliant moments in time, the way that it can just take one such moment – a moment in which the crackle of the fire makes you feel perfectly, contentedly warm; the flash of belief in a child’s eyes when you tell her that the jingling of bells that she hears is the music of flying reindeer; the fleeting frost-kiss that is a snowflake landing on your cheek – and make that moment expand almost infinitely and make you forget that outside the snow globe, life’s storms come pelt hail and bend your umbrella and soak your mitts.
I’m not a professional photographer. Nor am I professional filmmaker or documentarian. But I do tell stories, and a lot of those stories are about my kids, and telling stories about my kids involves using photographs and video. So I am, if you will, a Semi-Amateur Multimedia Documentary Artist and Chronicler Of Family Narratives, and I do an acceptably decent job of it, if I do say so myself.
But it’s a job that has had a somewhat steep learning curve. Capturing the most narratively interesting moments of family life is only slightly less complicated than filming meerkats, not least because small children are less predictable than meerkats. Capturing the movements of children on film during the holidays is considerably more complicated than filming meerkats, because during the holidays children tend to be jacked up on candy canes and Santa, and meerkats, to the best of my knowledge, don’t get all that excited about either of those things. But it’s not impossible, and well worth the effort, because although meerkats are awesome, they are not nearly as funny and adorable and documentary-worthy as your own children. You can make an awesome photo collage or montage or video that captures the awesomeness of your family during the holidays, and you should.
So, herewith, and humbly, some tips from me on how get adequately amazing footage of your family, whether on digital film or video or sketchpad, and use it to craft some remarkable holiday memories. (Or, Tips For Being An Awesome Documentary Filmmaker/Photographer/Auteur And Creating The Best Family Holiday Video/Photo Album/Virtual –Slideshow-For-Your-Mom-Blog EVER, Even If You Have No Idea What You’re Doing At All, Really. Or, Failing That, How To Get Just Enough On Film So That You Don’t Forget What Your Kids Look Like.) (Read all the way to the bottom! There is music! And PRIZES! And other feel-good things!)
Last night, I was writing a post about having had a particularly bad day while Christmas shopping. It was a post about struggling with grief over the holidays, about the heartache that comes in those moments when you’ve gotten caught up in the holiday spirit and forgotten that something – that someone – is missing and then you suddenly remember and OOF. It was a post – again, again – about my dad. I was struggling to write it. I was wondering, as I always do, why I persist. I was feeling sad.
As I was agonizing over it, I heard a small voice from the other room, singing, in very high, measured tones, hallelujah.