Between metaphors and memories exist a unique breed – parents at nighttime. Stick with me, I have a point and you just might like it.

As parents, after putting our kids to bed, if we are not too tired to crash out ourselves, we often dream of starting that much talked about Netflix show, or finishing the book, inconspicuously lying on the nightstand, or maybe even concluding a conversation we started with our spouse, the prior week over dinner. But let’s be honest, seldom do any of those things come to fruition. In actuality, half an hour later, either for social media spectacle or merely as muscle memory manifestation, we are scrolling through pictures of our kids on the iPhone. A process which has the power to metamorphosize us into gooey editions of ourselves, taking trips down memory lanes in the devious time machine of nostalgia. Suddenly those pictures become metaphors for so many more memories than the lens captured.

Last night was one such instance. Scrolling through pictures went a bit out of hand and I happened to land prior years’ pictures of my kids with Santa. In one, my daughter was crying her heart out for she didn’t want anything to do with the strange Santa and in another, my son had his back showing because the basket behind had candy canes, which is all he wanted or cared about. I remember my husband would always comment, “why are we paying ridiculous dollars to a fake Santa who is making our kids cry?”

Over the years, as kids grew up, the encounters with fake Santa got much better but the struggles around it continued. I remember one time, feeling embarrassed and apologizing to the picture crew because my parents kept sneaking their grandchildren’s pictures for their personal collection, despite the written rule, “No personal photography”. On another instance, my husband and I were not talking (although, you cannot tell by the picture) because I forced the family into outfits, they claimed to be hot and scratchy. And, almost always, the long lines of the picture booth had at least one hangry meltdown, prompting the Grinch question, “what exactly is the point of this?”

And, of course, Santa visits were never just that. They always coalesced with a trip to the local, packed to the brim mall, pointless retail therapy, and an excursion to seriously questionable hygiene standards of Cheesecake Factory.

Yet, looking back, as I sat through those pictures, I cherished each one of those memorable visits, which have now acquired the status of a family tradition. A tradition which has been upended by the pandemic this year but is missed badly, and that too, in its entirety. Who knew those overpriced pictures of an imposter Santa, making my babies cry were going to be this powerful!! 🙂