In Which Family Photos Prompt Epiphanies, Resolutions, and a Writing Challenge
Christmas Writing Challenge #2: Most Vivid Memory

Christmas Writing Challenge #1: Wished-for Photo

Writing Prompt: Write about a photo you wish someone had taken

I think that we have clearer memories of the experiences we have pictures of, because the pictures help us involve another sense (vision) with the memory. But I also think that the majority of people twenty or thirty years ago didn't think about taking pictures the way we do now (obviously, digital cameras have a huge impact on how many photos we take and what we photograph), so we don't have very many pictures to help jar our memories. Maybe this writing prompt will help you remember something you've forgotten. You might want to give some of the back story before you write about the wished-for photo, like I did here. Happy writing!

My grandma (her name was Florence, but we never called her "grandma Florence," because our relationship with her was so much stronger than it was with my dad's mom; she was just Grandma, the archetype all others are measured by) had this really cool table. Most of the year, it looked like a regular sofa table. But during the holidays, its secrets were revealed: it was really a dining table folded into the shape of a sofa table. For Christmas Eve, she'd unfold the table. It spread nearly the entire length of the front room in their tiny one-room apartment. In my memory, we always had roast beef on Christmas Eve, with mashed potatoes of course, and her curiously-strong brown gravy.

While my mom helped Grandma finish up the dinner preparations, and Dad and Grandpa sat at the round, yellow Formica kitchen table, talking while Grandpa smoked, my sisters and I would hang out in the bedroom. My grandparents slept in separate twin beds, with off-white matelasse bedspreads and heavy, flat down pillows. We'd play with Grandpa's old till calculator (which we called the "add-em and add-em machine"); he was the manager of the little apartment complex and part of his job was to collect and balance the rent every month. Or we'd rummage through Grandma's jewelery box, sifting through her long strings of shell necklaces from Hawaii. And we'd speculate---what might Santa be bringing tomorrow morning? In my mind, those discussions were endless. I've a clear memory of my sister Suzette sending me out into the kitchen as a spy: my job was to discover whether or not she was getting a new pair of jeans. Problem was, whenever my mom and grandparents talked secrets, they spoke in their secret language, so I went back to the bedroom with nothing but a roll to share with my sisters.

The picture I wish we had: the eight of us at the magical table, just after the prayer, everyone feeling a bit squished, one of us sitting right in front of the tree with its blue ornaments and lights. I want to be sitting next to Grandma in this picture and, since I'm getting far too romantic, maybe my dad's arm could be over my mom's shoulder. Grandpa would be sitting at the head of the table, of course, with the ancient TV about two inches away from the back of his chair. My sisters and I all manage to smile, keep our eyes open, and look at the camera. I'd like to have a clearer memory of dishes and tablecloths and steaming platters of food, of the tree in its corner and our faces full of anticipation. As it is, what I remember most clearly are the purple glasses (which are now in my kitchen) full of wine for the adults, and the way it felt to hug my grandma in her scratchy lace apron, and the scents: cigarette smoke and gravy and potato-y steam and pine tree and the fresh, cold air coming through the open window.

Resolution: make sure to take a picture this year of my kids sitting at their grandma's table for Christmas dinner.

If you play along, make sure to add your name to the Mr. Linky below!


dana burton

Is it necessary to have a blog in order to participate? I tried to register but was unable to complete the process.


Amy, what a wonderful post! You painted a great picture. It will make me think of Kodak memories stored only in my head...


Thanks for the challenges, Amy. Writing is bringing back things I'd not thought of in a long time. I'm planning to save these things I write in a journal for my son.

Kasandra Mathieson

Great challenge Amy! I have been thinking of it for a few days so am behind already...sigh.... but it made me work harder! I am so used to just writing around a picture, this made me think of a fun picture in my head. I just wish I remembered things better, need to get my Mom to check it and fill in the real details! thanks a bunch.......Kasandra

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