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That’s life: When the Easter photo doesn’t quite happen

April 5, 2016

I doubt that we’re the only family with children and grandchildren who didn’t quite manage to get an Easter photo of all the family members.

I have learned that if a group photo happens, it’s great, and if it doesn’t happen, well, like my friend Martha always used to say, “That’s life.” She used to say it, not because she’s physically gone, but because her great mind is now gone. I’m very sad, but that too is life.

With toddlers and babies in tow—naps, feedings, wanting to change out of sometimes uncomfortable or chilly Easter outfits as soon as possible, mild tantrums—these things can all get in the way of managing an Easter family photo when together.

That’s ok. That’s life. Because after all, we know that a beloved but controversial religious leader being crucified on a cross and then experiencing an amazing resurrection is all about getting a beautiful Easter picture with everybody in suits and smiles.

The important thing about life is not the perfect family photo, as my kids are teaching me, but that you truly live it—every, every minute, (as another great mind used to say—Thorton Wilder, in his play, “Our Town.”)

We actually managed to all gather together quickly outside the church building while waiting for the Easter egg hunt and posed for a picture. I grabbed a dear man, Mark, (and he’ll feel terrible if he reads this, but it is SO NOT his fault), and I neglected to turn the camera switch to “take photos” instead of “view photos.” I never realized this until it was far too late for a do over. So. No Easter Family Photo for 2016. We didn’t get one either in 2015 or 14, but I felt ok about 2014 because we had planned a professional family photo shoot a few weeks later.

Instead, I do have various not-group photographs and bushels of sweet memories that no one quite managed to grab on camera, but that’s ok. We lived the moments, like visiting my brother-in-law who just had knee surgery a week and a half earlier, and little Sam being asked by a second cousin,“Sam, did you bring me any Easter eggs” and while he/we had NOT, the quick little thinker, though just two-and-a-half-years-old—ran to a little shopping cart he’d been given to play with which was filled with colorful plastic eggs, grabbed an egg, and took it smiling (like he knew he’d pulled a good trick) to cousin Anna.


Or, tracking behind another grandson, future track star James, who, while we were waiting for the Knights of Columbus Saturday morning egg hunt to begin, decided to make like Forrest Gump and just took off running and running and running all around the park with father following him, uncle following him, and even Grandma following him. No one got pictures of that, but on Sunday at the Trinity egg hunt, I managed to get one of my daughter Doreen chasing little James.

I have no photos of Sam watching out the car window every where we went that weekend in the lovely Shenandoah Valley countryside exclaiming “Moo cow!” with delight when he’d spot them. Upon seeing a brown cow he’d launch into “How now, brown cow?” from a storybook someone has read him.


Michelle on wedding day, 2008.


Michelle and Brian’s son James, Easter 2016.

And I have this lovely mother-son duo of shots, standing in the exact same doorway at our church which meets in an antebellum old house. The photos were taken eight years apart. Was the bride contemplating a future little man standing there? How about many years hence—will the little man wait there for his own bride? I don’t even want to think that far into the future! (Note: no one asked James to pose for this, it just happened.)




I also have scattered unposed photos of spring blooms and outfits,


Knights of Columbus egg hunt moments (can you find two month old Henry??)


and dyeing a few Easter eggs (but how did I fail to get a photo of Sam with his prize bunny at one hunt?).StuartHenryDoreen

And Grandpa Stuart rocking the newest addition to the tribe, young Henry Stuart who is smiling at Aunt Doreen.


The photos I have are enough. My heart is full. For all these gifts I am so very thankful.


How do you work at combining Easter customs with the meaning behind them?

Do you have any tried and true methods for organizing a quick family photo that doesn’t have the toddlers in tantrums and the teens rolling their eyes?? And no cheesy smiles?


This part is mainly for my Trinity friends:


I’m thankful for those who took the time and energy to pose this group shot of Trinity members and attendees in the fall of 1985. (Click to enlarge.) It includes pastor Dan and Pat Grandstaff (upper far left), our two oldest daughters (Tanya and Michelle in center of front row, next to Joannie in her wheelchair) along with Stuart (gray shirt by upper left white column) and I (maroon maternity jumper near the center of the photo, with Doreen just “on the way”). The photo is also full of so many dear departed saints. Below is a photo of the egg hunters from 2016, this one taken and shared by John Henderson. 


Front row left to right: Michelle, me, grandson James, grandson Sam, Tanya. Our new pastor, Stephanie Sorge Wing and her older son Isaac are right behind us. Click the link on Stephanie’s name to get to our newly restored and relaunched website for Trinity! (I will work on updating other links to Trinity’s website on my blog in the near future, they mostly don’t work right now.)


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Don’t you know, group photos are passe! The moments you captured here are gold.

    One Easter when they were 4 or 5 Patrick had a meltdown because his cousin Curtis found more eggs than he. Now they are both self-controlled young men of 12. Your daughters look so much like you. I even see flickers of your likeness in the grandchildren. Great post, Melodie.

    • I really don’t like most group photos where “cheese” is the operative smile word. 🙂 Thanks for the affirmation that it truly is OK! And cool.

      Yes, I’ve seen meltdowns (not my grandkids, mind you–not yet) over how many eggs were found. Sad but cute. Flickers of likeness in my little grandsons? Yes, maybe! Thanks for your comment.

  2. I always forget to take pictures, let alone get people organized for group photos. Too busy enjoying the chaos!

    • I like your phrase, enjoying the chaos. Recently a colleague returned from what will likely be a trip of a lifetime for him on a camping safari to Botswana and South Africa with 11 members of his wife’s family. He brought back few photos–he says he prefers to be in the moment. I salute him! (His brother-in-law takes oodles anyway.) I DON’T want to be the grandma who always says “Now everyone get together we’ve got to get a picture” but sometimes I’ve been disappointed, later.

  3. Beverly Silver permalink

    Hi Melodie, THANKS – for the blog, for the family photos AND for the group photo from 1985! I LOVE group photos and am so grateful that you posted it! I did not have a copy of this one at all, and if I did it would be on paper and not digital! Now it can go into my iPhoto file! My, how wonderful to see all those faces from long ago – and so much younger – and with so many of them now gone. Also it was neat to see the current year’s photo, tho I did not know everyone who is in it. Will keep it too! Another person took photos of the egg hunt – John _ and he put prints on the table in the worship room. Hope you got to check them out. He has done it for years and is so generous with sharing. Thanks again for the remembrance of a lovely Easter this year, and also for one over 20 years ago! Love,

  4. Bev, I’m sure you can appreciate the group Trinity photo in ways not everyone can (even though, I should point out, that one was fall, not Easter). Yes, there are so so many on there: Kathryn Roller for instance. Loved her always smiling face. Truly the saints of Trinity surround us, especially on a day like Easter or All Saints Day. Thanks for commenting–and yes, I got to pick up some of the photos John H shared. I got some good ones!

  5. Margaret Weir permalink

    My sister calls those moments, God moments. Things God gives to us to bless us in the moment, and we didn’t capture them because He meant them to be moments, right there in the present. I don’t capture most “moments” because I’m too busy watching and being blessed. We don’t have good posed pictures, and getting group pictures is nearly impossible. Those perfect scenes we witness when we’re driving and can’t take a picture? God moments, meant for just that instant of blessing.

  6. Margaret, thank you for these additional thoughts–God moments. Especially when I see things I’d like to capture while driving–a beautiful white horse in a green pasture and azure sky: a God moment. The sunsets that change in seconds. Thanks to your sister–and you, for sharing these thoughts for our contemplation!

  7. Athanasia permalink

    I am not sure what Easter customs we have other than breakfast at church, then church, then spend the day with family and/or friends. I have never been involved with or seen an egg hunt, though I am familiar with pictures and the general idea. What is the custom behind the egg hunt? Do you know? We dye eggs and buy the requisite Easter candy. We don’t do bunny baskets. Leading up to Easter, just for fun, I made frosted cookies in shapes of chick, lamb, cross, basket, flower…whatever springy type cutters I had. Also decorated cupcakes another day. This year after church we went to one of my brother’s house for the rest of the day…over 40 gathered.

    We do take pictures, not for every situation. If someone remembers. We do take a family picture every year to include with Christmas cards…most often taken at Thanksgiving. We have no pictures of my husband’s family growing up, at all, until he was 16. We all take pictures now with our phones; a couple actually have a digital camera.

  8. Who knows how customs evolve but I certainly grew up hunting the eggs we colored earlier in the week, on Easter Sunday, and many days before and after just for the fun of it. Of course many of us grew up hunting real eggs in the chicken house as well. Here’s one website’s explanation:

    I’m pleased we got a good family picture at Christmas so that should do me for awhile!

    Your Easter celebration sounds perfect–spending the day with over 40 at a relative’s house. You are fortunate to live close together. Thanks for your “picture” of your customs and activities.

    • Athanasia permalink

      Melodie, I checked the site and it mentioned egg rolls but I didn’t see egg hunts. So you hunted the dyed eggs? I always thought people were looking for those plastic eggs filled with candy.

      • Nowdays they hunt for both–but most often use the plastic eggs. We always used the dyed eggs: never had plastic eggs in the 50s! There was something wonderful about discovering a lost egg with the lawnmower in June–and of course it was pungently rotten by then. 🙂 At our church we used to use all real eggs, and now they only want to use plastic, because of the dangers of children or others ending up eating spoiled eggs (which have been left out of the fridge too long).

        Here is where that link mentions, briefly, about hunting eggs, and I assume that historically, these would have also been the home dyed real ones, even though they’re pretending here it is the Easter bunny “he,” who hides them: “He has also hidden the eggs that they decorated earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house. Neighborhoods and organizations hold Easter egg hunts, and the child who finds the most eggs wins a prize.”

  9. I grew up in Old Order Mennonite there in the Valley. Our church didn’t allow cameras so we only have a very very few “illegal’ photos from childhood. I treasure those visual glimpses highly, but I treasure equally the heritage of living in the moment rather than feeling the need to capture it.

    Our mother would make us bunny cakes covered with white coconut “fur” and jelly beans hiding around it in the green coconut grass. Early on Easter morning my older sisters would get up early and hide the Easter eggs we had dyed with great delight the day before. We always made a special “prize egg” by dumping all the colors together at the end of the dying process. I can’t imagine how my mom had the energy to do that with our family of 13, but I treasure those memories in my heart where the very best “photos” live and take up no space at all.

    • I made a bunny cake like that once! That’s a great idea for the muddy colored egg made at the end of egg dyeing–to make it the prize egg. Lovina Eicher, Amish columnist, said they still make Easter eggs with the younger children so that’s neat to hear how long those memories live with you. But you are right–the best photos live in our heart — and like you say, don’t need space. Or organizing! Wonderful to hear from a former Old Order here in the Shenandoah valley. I’d love to hear more some time. I will also check out your blog!

      • I’m currently living in Ohio and am in a writing group with Bruce Stambaugh. I gave him the sunset photo tip in the article you just published in Valley Living. I enjoyed reading that magazine when I lived in the Valley and was pleased Bruce was asked to publish in it.

        Thanks for stopping by my blog. You might find this post of interest.

        A number of months ago I commented on your fun blog post about editing a Lutheran handbook on “How to Sing a Hymn.” I never responded to your question there about where I was editor – Christian Light Education, the curriculum department of CLP. Neighbors to Mennonite Media. : )

  10. Athanasia permalink

    Ava, I enjoyed reading your blog article. We have monthly hymn sings at our church.

    Melodie, my paternal grandmother, Grandma Trudi, always made a lamb cake for Easter. It was just beautiful with its fluffy white frosting and jelly bean covered green coconut grass. The inside was always a surprise…sometimes pound cake, sometimes carrot, sometimes boiled date. It was always a dense cake. She only had sons, eight of them, so no daughter to hand it on to, so the daughter in laws would take turns with it over the years. My mother is not a baker so my sister and I took turns. I actually looked for one of my own for years. We go to lots of auctions and about 6-7 years ago we found one. The lamb pan still makes the rounds of my cousins and besides Easter it’s become tradition to have a lamb cake at the baby showers on that side of the family.

  11. I LOVE making the lamb cake a tradition at your baby showers. How unique and special for your family. Thanks for sharing so much here, Athanasia, always interesting!

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