a completed collage…

What kind of present do you get for a couple who have allowed you to be a part of their family for a year, who trust you to look after their children, and who are some of the best employers I’ve ever had? I thought this over for the last few months, and decided it had to be something special, something one-of-a-kind, and something that I love to make.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember that I love to make collages. I think I made my first photo collage when I was about twelve or thirteen. I remember that because I started going to camp when I was fourteen, and took with me the collage I’d made of my older brother. Over the years, I’ve gone from collages of family members to collages of people at my favorite conference. One joy of the pre-digital photo age was that you always had small interesting pictures of people and things hiding in the backgrounds. I would save all sorts of pictures for later use.

But here in Australia, I’ve been taking pictures of my Aussie family for over six months now. I have tons of pictures of them. And since you can delete and crop pictures, many of them don’t have little background figures to cut out. With so many photos of a medium to large size, I decided that this special collage was going to have to be big.

Then, Christmas snuck up on me. Not only Christmas, but my trip that I’m taking with a friend. We leave this Sunday. Last week, I realized I had a little more than a week, and I hadn’t done anything about this collage yet. So I got to work. I went to a store and got a 24 x 36 inch frame. When I brought it home, I realized it almost covered my desk, so maybe I went a little too big, but I was sure I had enough photos for it. Then, I went through all my pictures of my Aussie family and put all the best ones on a CD to take to the photo store, where I had over a hundred pictures printed.

In the end, I realized I had way too many pictures of Bubby, and next to her, I had tons of Sadie and Emmie. A smaller pile had pics of Kit and Bea, and then a VERY small pile of Mr. and Mrs. B. This wasn’t good, I couldn’t have them so outnumbered. So, in a mysterious (and probably annoying fashion), I talked the parents into coming outside with me, two days in a row, to get pictures of them. Pictures of Bea and Kit followed. And then, in the middle of the week, I had to stage another photo shoot with the kids and their mom, in order to get more of Mrs. B and the older girls. The younger girls enjoyed all the jumping pictures, though, as I photographed them all in mid-air.

So, with the first order of photo being printed, last Saturday, I started to cut them out and place them on the picture frame backing, using double-sided, acid-free, mounting squares. And slowly, day by day, the collage took shape. I spent the longest amount of time on it, on Saturday, but had to force myself to work on it every day. Some days, I got started, and immediately was having so much fun that I had to make myself remember to go eat. Other days, I didn’t want to put my book down, but I knew that if I didn’t finish before I left, I’d be upset with myself.

My goal was always to give the whole family their presents on Friday, or before, so that I’d be able to see their faces when they opened them. But I knew that if I finished the collage early, I wouldn’t be able to wait. So, on Thursday, I was within sight of the goal, and raced to finish, managing to wrap all my gifts and only be a few minutes late for dinner. The kids were immediately excited, when they realized the presents were coming down. They went and got a Santa hat for me to wear, and I happily wore it until the evening heat and humidity started to make me sweat majorly.

We started with Bubby and worked our way up. I got her a “My First Baby”, a little baby doll with no small parts to choke on. She was very excited, the whole time we were getting it out of its box. But being a toddler with a short attention span, still, she will hold the baby for short periods of time, and then pitch her on the floor in a temper. I figure in a few months, she’ll be carrying the baby doll everywhere, though. At the moment, Bubby has more fun wearing a purse around her neck. Trying to start a new style, I know, just like all little girls before her.

I gave Sadie and Emmie copies of the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, the ones that all American kids have been watching since babyhood. We even watched Rudolph, today, though I remember it being much longer, when I was little. It’s still awesome, though.

Bea and Kit were thrilled to share the present of the Lord of the Rings movies… the theatrical versions. I think they should be able to watch them without me there to skip parts. At least, I hope so.

Finally, I brought the big present out and set it up on the coffee table, and while Mrs. B held Bubby, Mr. B did the honors. He started ripping from one corner, joking about what might be inside (a flatter flat-screen TV than we already have?), and then they were all startled at what one corner revealed. The exclamations got louder as they went, and then they all spent the next twenty minutes crowded around it, pointing out different photos. So, I was very pleased at how well they liked it.

It’s the biggest collage I’ve ever made. The biggest one, before this, was probably only a third of its size. So, I think I made a definite success of this, but I’m sure it won’t be the last one I ever make.

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