It wasn’t as if the whole family had to pay for it. No one had offered to, although they would take part of the credit when the 25th anniversary gift was opened and exclaimed over and hung lovingly over the fireplace for all to see. It wasn’t as if the wedding portrait, an original oil painting from an old photo, was anyone else’s idea, but someone would probably say it had been.
It was an idea I had been forming in the back of my mind since last year when my grandparents had celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, which fell on Christmas day. Twenty five years of marriage does not seem like a lot for grandparents, especially for those who have grandchildren in their forties, like me, but theirs was an amazing love story. Both had been married to other people following the Holocaust and had subsequently lost their spouses tragically – his from cancer, hers in a car accident – and then, love again. Getting married later in life, with families already well-established and fully-grown hadn’t been the easiest transition. Different walks of life, beliefs and ways to properly cook a Thanksgiving turkey had been only a few of the many issues that had arisen between the newly blended family members, but now it was time to come together.
Originally it had been a family portrait idea – to have a painting made from a photo taken of the entire family – siblings and step siblings, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, but the idea had grown bigger than I could manage, so I had decided to simplify with a wedding portrait of my grandmother and their grandfather together on their wedding day, shrunken and wrinkled, old even then, 25 years ago, but happy, deliriously happy.
Since their anniversary fell on Christmas day, I thought the original oil painting would be a unique Christmas gift idea as well as a memorable 25th wedding anniversary gift. They deserved something special to commemorate how far they had come. They knew about all the struggles, even though we, the blended family, always tried to keep the unpleasantness from them. Maybe it was too late to try and teach an old family new tricks, but they didn’t think so. Every child and grandchild, niece and nephew was loved by my grandmother and their grandfather as though they were flesh and blood.
They deserved something special. The thought kept circling around in my head. A wedding portrait would not be enough. I would have to revive the family portrait idea. They deserved something special like the whole family – the two they had tried so hard to make into one – coming together on one page, or at least one on piece of canvas, frozen happily in a timeless collection. A sitting would never work, but a painting from a photo would. It wasn’t going to be easy, but then again, love, of any kind, never is. After all they had given it was worth the sighs and groans, the unwanted opinions and ideas, the late arrivals to the photography studio and the enormous cost to give my grandmother and their grandfather – my grandparents – the one thing they love the most in the world, their whole family.