At the start of the school year, especially at a new school, there is always an inevitable project that comes home in a back pack. The Family Tree.
Now, please don’t assume that we don’t have a very healthy, widespread family tree, with whom we love spending time and who we speak to often, because we do. It’s just that they are on the other side of the world. And so are all our wedding pictures, holiday snaps, baby photos and school portraits. In fact, the only pictures we have to hand are those taken since we started moving, so to all intents and purposes, the children’s lives started at ages 4 and 8 respectively, and their parents are orphans..
Our trouble with the Family Tree project is that we are only ever given a week to complete it, and international mail takes at least five business days. The only people who would be able to furnish us with the necessary images are the Grandmothers, and neither of them have access to a scanner, or the ability to use one. So getting the photos has turned in to highly complex, multi-stage operation which involves calling my mother, getting her to rummage through her photo albums for appropriate pictures, have her invite my brother over on the pretext of a family dinner and present him with a stack of mugshots, and him to then find the time amid his own family commitments to scan and send them one by one. And then we have to download and print them off, assuming that Martha hasn’t used all the photo paper printing off pictures of cute cats doing funny things on YouTube.. As you might imagine, our success rate to date is precisely zero.
So as I was trawling through my digital photo album for the more non-existent family portraits, I had an epiphany. Absolutely no-one here knew what my family members looked like, and if we didn’t have a clue when Great Grandma Hughes was born, nor would the teachers. And so, the Great Internet Family Tree was born. You should have seen our latest display; it was a triumph. Instead of the usual grainy, unflattering and often unfortunate shots that make up our posters, we were airbrushed, professionally posed and serene. Of course, the photos weren’t actually of us nor any members of our family, but the we were all delighted with our new, improved visages.
The same applies to birth dates. Should you start getting birthday cards at odd times of the year from Martha, please just thank her nicely and stay very quiet, because I have taken the same cavalier approach to birth dates. Frankly, your birthday is now whatever date comes to my head when asked. It has to be said confidently, or she will smell a rat, but I have become pretty convincing. The only flaw I can foresee is if she starts comparing notes from previous years or from Tom’s projects. The good news for you is that you have the potential for at least four additional birthday cards a year, which would cheer anyone up, unless of course your age accelerates at a similarly alarming rate. And it may come back and bite me on the backside in cards and international postage..
Apart from that small glitch, I’m thinking there may be a future in this fake family thing. Up until now, I have been crippled with guilt that I never did get around to recording my offsprings’ finest hours. I have no baby book that records their first step, first word, first tooth, nor a photographic record of their development. Sure, I have photos somewhere, but not many, and only the dodgy home version, never the semi naked child on sheepskin rug / clean and well dressed / gazing wistfully into the camera lens version. You can tell this one is real by the crumbling walls, the duct tape on the high chair, and the general lack of hygiene..
But here’s the good bit – nor does anyone else.. So I’m off to trawl the internet for babies that bear the same physical characteristics as my lot, and I’m going to construct retrospective baby books par excellence. And in case you were wondering, mine will have will have walked, talked, smiled and recited poetry at astonishingly early ages, so that when my children have their own offspring, they will at last know what an excellent mother I was..