Every Christmas, I used to get my grandmother the same gift. I'd find a nice frame, put my most recent school picture inside, wrap it up and put it under the tree. I'm sure she caught on to my plan by the 5th grade. Sure, it's nice to have one gift crossed off the list before holiday shopping even starts, but my favorite thing about giving photo gifts is always the reaction. My grandma got so excited each time she'd get a new photo to add to the row of frames on her dresser.
Photo gifts are more than just gifts – they're a gift of memories that make us look back to remember how, when and who we shared those memories with. Simply buying a frame doesn't quite cut it anymore so I've gotten a bit more creative over the years. I pride myself on giving gifts that make the whole family cry happy tears and a photo frame just seems too easy. Perhaps it's my competitive nature but it always feels good to give a gift that no one could ever want to return or exchange.
My sister went into labor on October 7th of last year. I was the last to find out so I had time to grab things like the camera. Hudson Kammerer was born that afternoon and his first impression of his aunt is probably some lady that looks like mom, only with a camera glued to her hand. While the rest of the family was busy playing pass-the-baby, I sat in the corner taking pictures of such a special day. We remember that day with or without pictures, but the photos tell the story of the before and after. The photos don't show my brother-in-law coping with nerves, my dad fighting with the car seat, or my mom finishing the knit baby blanket just in time, but we look at the photos and remember all the little in-between moments.
For Christmas, I bought a craft box from the art supply store and covered the whole thing in mod-podged photos of Hudson's first day. Then I wrote a letter to put inside and marked it with: Do not open until 18th birthday. Hudson would want to know about all of the chaos that it took to bring him into the world. I put the baby box under the tree and made sure it was the last gift unwrapped, just to build the anticipation and ensure flowing water-works.
My sister carefully peeled away the wrapping paper with the rest of the family looking over her shoulder. As good as I felt about my gift, it meant so much to me to be able to craft a memorable story-board of the day we added a family member. Everyone was looking at photos they'd never seen before, getting to relive memories we all shared. Luckily, the box of tissues was within reach.
Every parent knows that kids grow faster than you have time to take their photo. With their back-up supply of energy, it's hard enough to even get one good photo of them sitting still without blackberry jam all over the shirt you just washed.
Not too long after the holidays, I had a few custom-made canvas prints made of my nephews. They hang in the hallway-timeline of her family photos. On one end is her wedding photo and on the other end is the canvas print of my youngest nephew, Hudson. The layout tells a story, and even when my sister is out of breath, chasing her three-year-old up the stairs, she can stop to look at the photos and know how lucky she is to be surrounded by a husband and two boys who appreciate her.
Photos always show one aspect of the story, but each time we take a closer look, we fill in the rest of the details and think about how special it was to share that particular memory with the people we love. Every photo represents something so much bigger than what we really see. It's a reminder of how much we value one another. And it's important to keep in mind that the not-so-perfect moments lead up to the perfect pictures that perfectly capture the best days spent together.
What is your favorite way to gift photos?
This holiday season, be sure to pause for a moment to take a family photo and hang it somewhere that you'll look everyday.
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