As I write this three little angels beam down at me from the wall. Curly haired, smiling Tom, aged four. That so, so beautiful picture of Jessica with the pink bobble in her hair. And Ben, quite frankly looking more lovely than a bumper box of loveliness.
And what’s this? One of the three of them together. Don’t you just want to eat them? What would they be? 8, 6 and 3? Jessica’s lost a front tooth so it’s a reasonable guess.
But that was it. I honestly couldn’t find another picture of my children together in the last ten years. That was when inspiration struck. Christmas was coming. A fantastic opportunity. What would Mum like more than anything? A picture of her ruggedly handsome sons and stunningly beautiful daughter. Grandma? Goes without saying. What else was the space on her mantelpiece for?
“Children,” I said, as an impressive burp from my youngest signalled the end of the pizza, “I need to talk to you. While your Mother goes and sits down.”
Jane didn’t need a second invitation. She selflessly poured the rest of the red wine into her glass and headed for the lounge.
“I’ve had a brilliant idea.” You won’t be surprised to hear my three teenagers looked doubtful. Sceptical even. But there was no outright hostility. I took that as a good omen and started my sales pitch.
“I’ve arranged for a photographer at work to take a picture of you all. Together. For your Mum. For Christmas.”
Tom stared at me. “You want us to come into your office.”
“I’ll be in bed.” I explain to my son that it is mid-winter. There are only about three minutes of daylight. Late morning is ideal. Photographers need light…
“No,” he says. “It’s a stupid idea.”
I sigh. “Tom it is not a ‘stupid idea.’ It’s a Christmas present for your Mum. Something she’ll treasure. Something your grandparents will treasure.”
“Will it take longer than five minutes?”
“Quite possibly, yes.”
I go on to explain to my children that I work with creative people. I’ve arranged a photographer. “He does rock gigs,” I say, already feeling the straw I’m clutching slipping away.
I take a deep breath. “And he came up with the idea of doing something different. Not the normal three-kids-looking-at-a-camera shot.”
“Something different…” Jessica’s tone of voice is icy. If I look at her I could well be turned to stone. I take an even deeper breath and press on.
“You know the famous shot from Ocean’s Eleven? Where the main characters are walking towards the camera? Something like that. All together. Looking cool.”
“There are only three of us.”
“Yeah, Dad. It’s called Ocean’s Eleven. Not Ocean’s Three.”
“Can’t we just look straight at the camera?”
“Everyone does that.”
“Maybe they do that because it works, Dad.”
I walked over to the wall and gave it a few bangs with my forehead. What is it with teenage children? They criticise you for being old and set in your ways – and then they behave with a level of conformity that would be impressive inNorth Korea. Try something new? Use our imagination? No thanks. Supposing our friends found out?
We reached an uneasy truce. I informed them that the photo-shoot was going ahead on Thursday morning. Tom and Jessica glowered at me. Ben seemed cheerful – but in a ‘let’s go and watch the Christians and lions’ way.
I didn’t care. My mind was made up…