Meat and Potatoes of Life: The 12 takes of Christmas is one family’s reality

| December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

Lisa Smith Molinari
Contributing Writer



“C’mon everybody!” I bellowed from our living room. “Let’s get this over with!”

“Kids! Honey!” I yelled from behind my camera, which was precariously perched on top of an Anthony’s Seafood matchbook, two beer coasters, three “National Geographic” magazines, “Roget’s Thesaurus” and our coffee table at the precise trajectory needed to capture a centered image of our family of five and the dog in front of the fireplace.

Knowing that the tiniest slip of the hand (or the dog’s tail) might ruin my painstakingly calibrated line of sight, I was reluctant to abandon my post. But when no one responded to my wails, I marched off to find them.

Twenty minutes later, I had managed to drag the resistant members of my family into the living room. My husband was miffed that I forced him to abandon a particularly riveting rerun of “House Hunters.” My son was annoyed that he had to pause Dragon Warrior VII just as he was about to master Ranger class. My daughter couldn’t fathom what was so important that she had to stop texting the cute boy from her chemistry class. My youngest was pouting about being torn away from her latest Snapchat creation.

They were all sporting major attitudes, but it was now or never.

“Listen! I don’t like this anymore than you do, but our family and friends have come to expect a Molinari family photo Christmas card every year, so backs straight! Stomachs tight! And get happy!”

My moping gaggle huddled together on the fireplace hearth, in shared irritation over being forced to pose for a family photo.

“Leave a spot for me on the left and get ready!” I ordered from behind my camera.

I gingerly jabbed the camera’s timer button, careful not to knock the lens from its matchbook coaster tripod, then I leapt like an aging, overweight gazelle across our faux Oriental rug and into my designated position.

“Mom, the camera’s blinking.”

“Honey, when do you want us to smile?”

“Are you sure you pressed the button, Mom?”

“I don’t know!” I screeched through my grinning clenched teeth. “Just keep smiling!”

“But, isn’t it supposed to flash?”

It took two more takes before we realized that the camera flashed after a prescribed series of slow and fast blinks. My son sneezed in the middle of take number four. The phone rang during take number five. I blinked in take number six. We all got the giggles in take number seven, when my husband belched up a pungent odor reminiscent of aged salami.

We finally realized that we forgot to include the dog, and it took two takes, three pieces of cheese and a tennis ball before he would agree to sit.

Somewhere along the way, I inadvertently nudged the June 2009 issue of “National Geographic,” and it took me 20 minutes and three more ruined takes to get the family centered in the viewfinder again.

On take number 13, we were so desperate to end our torturous holiday photo odyssey, we all agreed to cooperate to take one final, flawless shot.

With my last ounce of patience, I tapped the button with catlike precision and pounced into position, tipping my jaw forward to hide my double chin. The kids replaced their rebelliously fake grins with genuine sparkling smiles. My husband leaned behind me to hide his now sweat-stained armpit and mustered a charming pose.

The dog sat in perfect obedience, his ears handsomely perked.

Like the townspeople of Bethlehem, we looked for the bright light that would finally bring us salvation.

“Why didn’t it flash?” my husband whispered.

After another minute, our daughter extracted herself from our frozen pose to check the camera.

Peering at the digital display, she read aloud, “‘Change battery pack.’”

Realizing that a flawless family photo was never going to happen, we decided that one of the 12 takes would have to do, because reality is as perfect as a family gets.

(A 20-year military spouse and mother of three, Molinari has plenty of humor to share in her column, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” which appears in military and civilian newspapers and at


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