I looked up from my turkey/gravy/potato combination that I was currently mashing together. "Um, is it though?"
"Hey now," she protested. "We need to have this discussion--"
Apprehensive glances were exchanged between all siblings.
"--about the Christmas pictures!" Ma finished.
There was a chorus of groans. Our friend from Poland, Wojtek (he was visiting us for Thanksgiving), looked confused. "It is a problem?"
"For those of us who are not photogenic, yeah," I grumbled, then turned to Mom. "Please tell me we're not doing formal this year."
"That would look good," Mom mused. "But what would the girls wear?"
I made a face at my brother Nemesis as the conversation quickly devolved into the logistics of formal wear between Mom and my sisters. "Well, that backfired."
He shrugged placidly and kept eating. "I didn't bring my suit."
"You could borrow one of Radar's," Ma interjected.
"Can't get out of it that easily," I chuckled. "And I think I do have one that would fit you."
"You do not. You're a twig!" Nemesis returned, refraining from pointing out (again) that he outweighed me by fifty pounds. It was a bit of a sore subject for me.
I resisted the urge to kick him. "Well, last time we got a suit, Mom made them leave some room to grow," I explained. "Ergo, it's a little big for me, but it wouldn't be too snug on you. Just...don't do jumping jacks or anything like that."
"You usually don't exercise in a suit," Wojtek noted.
"Never stopped me," I returned through a mouthful of turkey.
"Okay, I think we're going to do a black shirt/jeans thing," Mom announced, finishing the discussion with the girls. "Now we just have to decide where to do it."
"We could do it on the front porch--" my sister Quill began.
The youngest sibling, Squirrel, interrupted her older sister. "Did that the year before. Or was it two years--I forget, but we've done it already."
I thought for a moment. "Hey, remember when we did one in the back of my truck?"
Mom looked wary. "...yes?"
"We already did that too," Quill pointed out. "Obviously."
"Well, we could do a similar thing, except with my boat," I suggested. "I could hook up the trailer tomorrow, bring it out and park it in the front yard somewhere, and we could do the picture in there."
"You could back it into the pond and we could shoot it in there," Dad joked, straight-faced.
Ma's eyes lit up. "Hey...that's a GREAT idea!"
I stroked my chin. "Well, if we could get some boards down--wait, isn't the pond frozen?"
"It's not that thick," Mom said excitedly. "And we could get the dogs on board and--"
"Dear, I was kidding," Dad protested.
"Okay, first off, there shall be no dogs on my boat," I said firmly. "Second off, I'm not shoving the Panama into a bunch of ice. It would scratch the paint."
"But it would be so funny!" Ma protested. "Please, could we--"
"Not unless you're willing to shell out another three grand for a new paint job," I said. Quill and Squirrel groaned in disappointment. I thought for a moment. "Plus another hundred and thirty to re-winterize the motor. I already had it drained and prepped."
"Party pooper," Mom said disapprovingly.
"Again. Joking," Dad reminded everyone. No one listened.
I shrugged. "We can do it next summer. Or fall. You know, before it gets too cold. Having the boat on the pond would be funny."
"And we can have the dogs--"
Quill giggled. "Seriously, where are we going to do it this year?"
"Well...let me think..." Ma said slowly.
Nemesis cleared his throat. "We don't have to do Christmas pictures this year."
"Yes we do," Mom said emphatically.
"Well, if we've GOTTA do Christmas pictures, let's do them on the roof of the house," I joked. "Nemesis, wanna sling the turkey this way, please?"
"Ooh, like in front of the gable? Sure," Mom agreed suddenly.
I blinked. "Wait, what?"
"I think he was kidding too," Dad mused.
"Actually, I wasn't, but I didn't think she'd go for it," I clarified.
Mom looked thoughtful. "But we couldn't have the dogs in it."
"Well, technically, we could," Quill pointed out, giggling. "At least the small ones. Rocky, probably not." She looked down at Mom's new golden retriever, who grinned up at her and poked his nose at her plate. She pushed him away. "HEY!"
"The dogs were in the photo last year," I reminded everyone.
"Not Rocky!" Mom protested. "We didn't have him--"
"Not a loss," Squirrel muttered under her breath to Quill.
Dad raised his hand. "So we should do one on the ground. Good. In front of the front door?"
"Let's do both," Squirrel proposed. "One on the roof and one on the ground, and see which one's better!"
One day later, I was back out at the farm and ready to go. Mom grouped us up in Squirrel's bedroom and told us how she wanted us to line up on the roof before departing for the downstairs to get her camera. Squirrel opened her window and I pulled the screen out, leading the way out of her gable. Wojtek watched with amusement; I informed him that he really shouldn't be laughing, since Ma was probably going to make him join us for at least one picture.
"That is fine," he reassured me.
"Yeah, you say that now," Nemesis said, making a face.
It was a little cold out. I guided my siblings to their spots, standing between them and the edge in case one of them should slip. (It was universally acknowledged that I had the greatest chance of walking away from any sudden roof descents, partially because I had fallen off of several roofs already...and from greater heights than this.) We got into position with a minimum of jostling and a maximum of threats against other siblings. Also a family tradition.
"So how is Mom--" Quill started, then broke off as we heard the familiar rumble of the skid loader. Dad came driving up from the barn, waving the bucket at us before parking in front of the sidewalk. Mom hopped in the bucket and we convulsed with laughter.
"Should have guessed," Quill admitted.
Squirrel checked her pockets. "Does anyone have a phone?"
"I've got this," I promised and took several pictures of Mom slowly ascending in the bucket.
"Positions!" Nemesis begged. "It's a little cold up here!"
"It would be great if it wasn't for the wind," I admitted, trying to get my hair out of my face. "Oh, hell with it."
"You think you have it bad," Squirrel remarked through a mouthful of her own hair.
Mom raised the camera. We all smiled.
"Wait!" she yelled, turning to Dad. "I gotta go back down!"
There were a chorus of groans from the roof. "WHY?" Nemesis yelled.
"Wrong lens!" Mom explained.
We burst out laughing again. "Go figure," I muttered as Dad put Mom back on the ground. She hurried inside. Wojtek laughed at us from inside Squirrel's room.
Dad drove forward with the skid loader, jerking it back and forth across the sidewalk for a minute before he dropped the bucket all the way to the ground and grinned up at us. He unzipped his jacket and turned up the radio loud enough to be heard even through the closed cab and over the noise of the engine.
"Now he's just gloating," Quill giggled, sticking out her tongue at him.
I felt compelled to defend him. "Hey, if I could sit inside with a heater and some tunes instead of getting my picture taken, you could bet your--"
"Hey now," Squirrel interrupted me.
"--I would," I finished, ignoring her.
"I think my fingers are falling off," Nemesis complained, walking around the roof fearlessly.
"My hair's in my face!" Squirrel complained.
I joined in the good-natured complaining. "I can't feel my butt. Is that normal?"
"I'm gonna jump," Quill threatened, laughing and holding out her hands in a posture reminiscent of swan-diving.
Mom came running back outside and climbed in the bucket. "Ready!"
Dad raised her up. She held the camera up, then yelled down, "Back up!"
Dad backed up. She waved her hand. "More...more...more..."
In a few seconds, the skid loader was further out than it had been to start with. I frowned. "Where are you going?"
"I got the zoom lens!" Mom yelled back. "I need to back up a lot!"
I stared at her incredulously. "You mean you got a different lens when you could have just had Dad move the Bobcat closer?"
"This takes better pictures," Mom yelled back, then waved to Dad. "Back up more!"
I groaned. "If they hit my truck, I'm gonna be--"
"Radar, language!" Quill interrupted.
"Okay, smile!" Squirrel suggested.
We smiled. Then goofed off. And basically did whatever the heck we wanted while Ma took pictures. Eventually, we got Wojtek out on the roof and took a couple pictures with him as well.
"Okay, that's probably good," Mom finally decided. "Let's go downstairs and shoot a few more!"
There was a mass scramble for the window (we were pretty cold by this point). I opted to let the others go in first, and so got treated to the entertainment of Mom trying to get Dad to let her down and Dad pretending not to understand her and driving the skid loader around instead.
And, despite the facial expressions of everyone (not to mention Squirrel's dramatic pose) in the following photo...Mom still decided to use one of the front door pics with the dogs.
On some upcoming Christmas, we should just do a blooper reel of pics from previous years.