I've been creating some sort of "family calendar" every year since 1992. It started when Erin was in preschool. Her teacher had the kids each make a monthly calendar featuring special kid-art (I remember lots of handprints. . . ). I ended up adding a photo of the kids to each month - and I gave the calendar to my parents for Christmas.
So the next year, I made them another calendar. This was back in the days before digital cameras, so I created monthly scrapbook layouts using printed photos and kid-art and pretty paper. It was pretty quick and easy, and again . . .
And so it continued. Every year I made a calendar for my parents. "Technology" improved each year. Paper companies started creating pre-made calendars you could purchase, with pop-in spots for you to just add your own photos. (Still nothing digital, of course.) Voilà! Instant and easy gift that my parents loved! I just saved a few photos each year for the calendar and made quick work of the whole thing.
And then . . . came the digital camera.
Suddenly, there was a big upgrade in the photo calendar department! With a commenserate upgrade in the time it took to put one together each year. Not just "popping in a photo" anymore. Oh, no! All of a sudden it was a multi-step, time intensive project: culling through the 100s (maybe 1000s) of digital photos I so casually snapped all year long, uploading those photos to Shutterfly, making sure each family member was (kinda) represented equally - and that the photos (kinda) fit the month.
But, boy! Did those printed Shutterfly calendars look great! My parents LOVED them. And because it was all digital, you could get price breaks when you ordered more - so I started ordering one for myself, too.
And Shutterfly calendar technology just kept marching on! Soon you could personalize the dang things with birthdays and holidays -- and add MORE pictures to the little date squares. There were themes and formatting upgrades. It just kept getting more and more "professional" looking -- and . . . more and more time-intensive to actually DO.
But . . . these calendars were my parents' most cherished gift every year. My mom used to say, wistfully, "I wish your sister would make me one, too." Now my sister has many, many talents and gifts. Photography is not her thing, and she's had no desire to create digital calendars. This is not a shortcoming in any way. She just . . . didn't want to go down the create-photo-calendar-for-our-parents path. So I expanded my calendar project to encompass ALL OF US. And our pets, too!
For years, it became my most dreaded holiday task. It became . . . The Daunting Family Calendar. It took hours and hours every year. (And it made me really grumpy and not much fun to be around while I was doing it.) Gathering photos. Sorting photos. Uploading photos. Creating the calendar pages. So much work! But so worth it every year. My parents loved the calendars, my sister loved the calendar. I loved having it FINISHED.
Then the kids went to college. They wanted their own copies of the Family Calendar. (Because how else would they know when everybody's birthdays were???) So I was now creating this monster calendar incorporating photos of/from 9 people and a growing number of dogs and cats!
Big task. Many hours of work. But . . . the calendars turned out beautifully and, really, everybody loved them! So. I continued on. (It was only once a year anyway.)
Then, in 2016, my Mom died. The kids were all grown and scattered to the winds. My dad was downsizing and moving to a small apartment. I was overwhelmed with many things. I decided to . . . let the calendar go. We'd had a great run with it, but I just didn't have the heart for it. (How could I make a Family Calendar without my MOM in it???) Everyone understood. So 2017 became the Year Without a Family Calendar.
And you know what? We all missed it.
So I started making them again for 2018. But I tried to make it more manageable for myself. Fewer photos. Fewer "special dates" on the calendar pages. I stopped including my sister's family (she was okay with it; she had grown weary of my constant nagging for photos she didn't like taking in the first place anyway). It's still a giant task. But. . . still a favorite gift.
And a huge silver lining: I have the most wonderful stack of Family Calendars going back to 2004 now (the first year I created a digital calendar).
I am right now, this week, putting the finishing touches on this year's Family Calendar. (I'm late this year. I lost track of the time.) Like always, I'll be so glad and relieved when it's done! But you know what else? I've enjoyed the process this year! Having less on my calendar and to-do list helps. But it's also been such a treat to scroll through my photos and see that . . . we've really made the best of a really crappy year! All of us. Yeah. The photos are different this year . . . we've got masks in some of them, "pandemic hair" in most of them, we're working from home and not-going-anywhere, and - most notably - we're not together. But we're . . . there. And we're smiling. And we look even . . . happy.
It's good perspective for me right now.
A nice reality check.
I'm really GLAD I'm creating the Family Calendar this year!
(But I'll still be really glad to get it off my list today. . . )
(The photos in this post are of the 2020 version of the Family Calendar, now hanging in my mudroom.)