by Jean Nelson Isom

Long before Facebook had a timeline, my family had one.  If I want to know what I was doing in 1991, I can go to the framed pictures in the hall and check, oh yes, downtown Fort Worth, we were living in the Metro-Plex.  What year was my youngest brother born, check the frame again, there it is, a picture of him behind the hospital nursery window with his three older sibling, with only the glass separating us.  What year did my sister graduate from college, yes, there it is, she is proudly wearing her cap and gown.

Christmas photo greeting cards are a long standing feature of our family’s history. These cards are now very popular but 60 years ago my family seemed to be one of the few who sent out photo greetings for the holidays. My father had to search for photo processors who would create the cards and the production quality was uneven year to year.

The Photo Organizers

My brother, sister and I carry on the tradition and I now have 60 Christmas cards displayed in two frames.  One set starts with me as a 6 month old and the other begins with our daughter as a toddler.  And now, I start another frame.  My daughter was married last year and she is now sending out her own Christmas picture cards.

The Photo Organizers

If you are thinking of beginning a family timeline with Christmas photos, here are a few tips:

1. Plan ahead.  What story do you want to send to your friends and relatives this year?  Was there a favorite event that defines the year like a wedding or birth?  Then take plenty of pictures so you will have choices.

2.  Location, location, location.  When you look back at your cards they will evoke stronger memories if you take them in favorite family locations.  When we lived in Fort Worth, we chose spots like museums, the courthouse, the arboretum, and the water gardens.  When our daughter started Kindergarten the picture was in her classroom where she had written, “Merry Christmas” on the chalkboard.

3.  How to dress.  Some events will dictate what you wear, such as a wedding or graduation, but when you have a choice, your clothes can be part of the story.  When our daughter was 5, she took ballet, so although the picture was at the Kimball Museum, the clothing was a ballet outfit.  The year she ran cross country track, the dress was her running attire and the background was the high school.

With digital photography, you will know when you have a great shot so the photo sessions can be relatively short and painless.  I remember my father taking several rolls of film just to capture one shot of four squirming children who were not being cooperative.  Don’t let the groans and the “awwww Mom or Dad” deter you from starting a family tradition that will live on for future generations.

Jean Nelson Isom is a social worker and her family’s photographer.  She lives in Abilene, Texas and she is called to be a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship.