**Part of my goal in photographing you and your family is to document the tiny details that make up the big, important memories and feelings. Usually, when we think about booking a photoshoot, we immediately start planning special outfits, locations, and poses. Our husbands might start running for the hills and our kids most definitely start whinging and kicking up. But it doesn’t have to be that way! What if you didn’t do anything out of the ordinary at all? What if you got pictures of your people exactly as they are at this stage in life? I’ll be sharing some of my most treasured memories in this blog series and hopefully helping you see just how special and beautiful your everyday life can be and why you want to preserve it.**
“Daddy!! You missed the Julenisse AGAIN!”
For the life of me, I could not figure out why my dad was out gathering wood every.single.year when the Norwegian Christmas gnome arrived at our annual Christmas party. My mom claims I was a gifted child but my inability to solve this simple childhood mystery makes me question her judgment.
Each year, we would host our close family friends for a night of hardcore Norwegian traditions topped off with a visit from the slightly-creepy Julenisse. There was always loads of cucumber salad, pickled herring, and homemade breads (I generally only consumed that last article because bread is life) and we even got to have a bottle of Solo. For kids who drank water or milk the other 364 days of the year, being allowed an entire bottle of this orange-flavored soft drink was heavenly.
After finishing our meal, we would appease our parents by performing a few traditional Christmas songs but really, we were just biding our time until the Julenisse arrived. We were never completely sure he’d show up as our parents constantly reminded us of his fickle nature. So the excitement and anticipation would build as the night went on.
Then there would be a knock at the door, and we’d go quiet with an odd giggle spilling out. The Julenisse had arrived – pointy reindeer-skin boots, black and white woolen socks under his black knickers (knee-length trousers for my British readers), a hand knit sweater, and a long red cap. But the best part was his face. It was a rubber mask with a long, red nose and wild, white hair. This thing was terrifying but we all loved it. In the absence of a photo of my dad, here’s a doll version which my mom had all over the house during the month of December.
The Julenisse would reach into his big, red sack and pull out a gift. He’d start grunting and gesturing with his woolen-glove clad hand and we’d each take turns receiving our gifts. One of the parents would then announce that the Julenisse needed to feed his reindeer and he’d disappear into the night.
About five minutes later, my dad would appear; seemingly sweaty from chopping wood. A more likely story is that he was flirting with heat exhaustion after being clad in head-to-toe wool and a rubber mask while standing in front of a fire. We would berate him for missing out on the Julenisse yet again, while the parents would laugh at our childhood naivety.
I wish I had more photos of our visits from the Julenisse; photos that captured our excitement and trepidation. Photos of us taking that first sip of Solo. Photos of my dad pulling on a stinky rubber mask. I wish I could go back and capture the memories the way they look in my mind. This is why documentary photography is such a gift. It provides a visual reference for those meaningful memories that would otherwise be just that – a memory.