Both of us had been widowed and were in our mid-60s when we married in 1999. Seven adult children and three grandchildren were part of the equation when we spoke our vows. Since then the number of “gkids”has grown to eleven.
It became apparent to us that we had a challenge — and opportunity — to become the glue binding the disparate family members and generations together. A practical, even artistic means of accomplishing that purpose presented itself at the first end-of-year holiday season. We began our family calendar tradition modestly, cutting and pasting photos from the previous year of family gatherings and adding handwritten captions. We then had our “masterpiece” photo-copied and bound for each family at a local print store.
From the beginning, we inserted the most recent contact information of our extended family, so that each person would know how to be in touch with the others throughout the changes over the following years.
Much has changed since that first effort. We learned to use Mac Pages to insert and modify the digital photos, and add captions and titles for each month. We don’t use the templates for calendars available online or at the photo store because we like to have more options for text, sizes of pictures and varieties of layout.
The family calendar has proved to be an aesthetic experience as we collaborate on what pictures to include and how to arrange the photos we have taken, as well as those family members have sent us. Over the years, we have come to include scanned images from previous generations as an appendix to the 12-month calendar. This genealogical component has inadvertently turned the calendars into legacy pieces. And the old pictures in boxes in the basement are being used and displayed for the next generation.
But we aren’t perfect. Some of the women in the family have complained that the pictures we chose to include didn’t flatter them. Also we have learned to be careful that all the cute little kids get equal coverage. Nevertheless, the calendar has become an anticipated event in the family; it is used and treasured. One son has even archived every edition.
We have recently wondered who might carry on the calendar tradition when we no longer can do it. Perhaps the family creativity will take another direction. But in the meantime, producing the calendar is a delightful activity in our lives, and wrapping and giving the copies is a highlight of the season.