I think we all know there's nothing more joyful at this time of the year than taking traditional family holiday photos so we can send them to other people to show them how joyful we are.
I'm talking about those ubiquitous photos wherein the entire family squeezes into garish holiday sweaters made from synthetic materials in psychedelic colours visible from outer space and then tries to arrange their facial features into a contemplative expression that conveys the spirit of the season.
If you have ever taken the time to look at the people in these photos, you'll know their vacant stares convey a timeless message -- they have been driven clinically insane, because nothing is more stressful than posing for a family holiday photo, unless it's the fact the malls have been playing It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams on a loop since before Halloween.
My point is at our house, we have a tradition of NOT taking traditional holiday photos because (a) we do not own sweaters festooned with reindeer and tiny snowmen; and (b) our kids and dogs sprint away like Usain Bolt when they see one of their parents approaching with a camera.
But this year, things are different. This year, our daughter, Kayleigh, and her boyfriend, Chris, decided to start their own tradition wherein they put on outlandish shirts sporting random Christmas messages and take ironic photos of themselves in the snow in our backyard along with the dogs, all of whom are dressed up as amusing holiday characters.
The thing is, we own three dogs, while my daughter's boyfriend owns two, which, for those of you who remember Grade 5 math, makes a grand total of five dogs, which is a large number of dogs to make sit still long enough for a photograph, especially if they are being forced against their will to wear embarrassing outfits.
On the day of the photo shoot, my daughter and her boyfriend decked out all the dogs in their festive finery. Chris's rambunctious German shepherd, Franklin, was transformed into a reluctant reindeer, while his jittery shih tzu, Chemo, who is the size of a baked potato, became Santa Claus, complete with a tiny white beard.
As for our pets, Zoe the miniature wiener dog was garbed as Mrs. Claus; Mr. X, a cross between a throw pillow and a makeup applicator, sported a green elf's hat, which repeatedly slipped of his head and dangled under his chin like a mutant beard; and our basset hound, Cooper, had to tote around an assortment of jingle bells and bandanas adorned with penguins and polar bears.
I have to give my daughter and her beau full marks for perseverance, because they spent a good hour trying to arrange themselves and the mutts into a heart-tugging holiday tableau. But this is next to impossible when you are dealing with dogs, who find themselves compelled by their DNA to wander away, bark at invisible people on the other side of the fence, chase invisible rabbits and vigorously sniff each other's hindquarters.
In the end, I felt a surge of pity for the kids and joined them in the backyard to serve as their emergency backup photographer. First, I had to remove my eyeglasses and hang them on my shirt so I would be able to peer through the camera lens. After taking what I believe were some truly festive holiday photos, I suddenly realized something was missing.
"Have you seen my glasses anywhere?" I asked my daughter.
"Yes," she grunted reluctantly.
"OK," I continued after a brief pause. "Can you tell me where you saw them?"
Rolling her eyes disdainfully, she pointed at the snow. "You're standing on them," she said, smirking. And, as it turns out, I was. When I picked them up, my grotesquely expensive designer eyeglasses were mangled. On my face, they were more lopsided than a fraternity brother on kegger night.
My bemused wife drove me to the local optical store and a lovely woman there frowned at my face, then, in a blur, magically straightened the crushed eyewear.
"What happened?" the woman asked before I could escape.
"I was trying to take family holiday photos of the kids and the dogs when I stepped on them," I explained.
"You stepped on the kids?" she snickered.
"No, I stepped on my glasses," I muttered with dignity.
She gave me a look of great pity. "I completely understand," she said, smiling.
And I completely believe her.