We took our family holiday photos two weeks before Thanksgiving in a park near our house. I had picked out the perfect coordinating outfits for the kids. I chose various shades of complementary reds, browns, and beiges. The photographer said, “Nothing too matchy-matchy” and suggested a soft palette that would pick up on the autumn hues in the trees and woods behind us. I chose a light-colored top, jeans, and booties. Casual and effortless. After all, the children are the focal point in these things.
“Okay, kids, don’t poke each other in the eyes,” the photographer said. “Let’s all be nice and love each other. Let’s be kind. Santa is watching! Oh, and don’t pull your sister’s hair, please?”
“Please stop,” I told the boys. “You can do whatever you want this afternoon. You can play Xbox for the rest of the day. Let’s just get through this. Smile for the nice lady.”
I was hungover and had drunk half a bottle of wine beforehand just to get by. Through it all, I kept focusing on the next drink I would have as soon as we got home.
“Come on, guys, the faster you smile, the faster it’s over for all of us,” Evan said.
“Smile, God damnit!” I yelled.
I cringe at the memory.
Thankfully, the photographer was able to capture some beautiful pictures despite the chaotic process it took to get there. I looked composed. I had my hair blown out, and my makeup was impeccable. Inside, though, I was screaming. And slowly crumbling. Things were completely falling apart for me at that point, whether I was willing to admit it or not. It was a few weeks after that when I broke down and asked Evan for help.