This was our holiday card last December -- a reincarnation of the days, sixteen years earlier, when my sons actually did what I asked. By which I mean they donned antlers and Irish knit sweaters and lined up by age.
We took the original photo the winter that we moved to Wisconsin. The boys loved how deer, foxes, even coyotes would meander through our woods and the idea of dressing up as reindeer delighted their innocent little imaginations.
They don't really do what I tell them anymore. Because at this point, what can I tell them that will be heard? To match their socks? Those days of parenting are over.
Yet on this particular day last December, I got three college dudes and a high schooler to dress up for me. How?
I began by selling them on the idea that recreating a moment from our past would be fun. Fun! They responded with groans and lots of rolled eyes. Then one piped up that it could be pretty hilarious. And another one mused on how to black out his tooth. The scales tipped in my favor, crowd mentality took over and I had a quorum.
We did have fun. Everyone studied the old photo and noticed things that seemed unremarkable at the time but that with the passage of years, reveal significant patterns. For example, our youngest was a laughing, easy baby with a belly that jiggled like a bowlful of jelly. He is still jolly and generous of spirit -- much like Santa.
And this is where I want to transition to something more serious. These four sons understand how nuts I am about nostalgia. They get what I am selling in my shop -- not just stuff but stuff that connects the past with the present -- and they all dig it. They are proud of me. For a woman who sat on the sidelines of other people's lives for the past two decades, this is a novelty. A gift.
Of course, they do reap benefits from my business. Last Christmas, everyone got something vintage. A portable bar in a suitcase, a pristine pair of binoculars in a leather case, a typewriter with Persian, or Farsi keys, a vintage ukelele.
But I reap more. When they travel about, they call in from antique shops, texting photos and bargaining on my behalf if something piques my interest. They pin my business card to food co-op bulletin boards in the Pacific Northwest. They get out their phones and share my page with friends. They like my posts on social media. They are my cheerleaders. Big hairy cheerleaders. They're pulling my sleigh and I'm happy for the help.