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Man of the House: Call it a holiday miracle

From what I’ve been able to glean, Christmas is just around the corner. The media treat it like Allied troops landing on the beach in France. Our family treats it as something far more substantial.

Party invites have started arriving, and the other day — Thanksgiving, in fact — we took a photo of the kids to insert into the Christmas cards. My wife, Posh, approaches the Christmas card photo like a Vogue editor perusing the perfect cover. She once flew the whole bunch of them to Paris for the right Christmas shot. “The inclination of the sun is better,” she explained. “Plus I need a good meal.”

In Paris, she set our four little angels up on a credenza in front of the George V hotel. It was a long shoot, but the kids were total troupers. After seven hours, two of them ran off to torch cars during a French labor protest, but the other two hung in there to the very end. We ended up hiring a couple of cute French children to take the place of the older two. Smile! Snap-snap-snap-snap-snap. Everyone thought it was one of the finest Christmas cards we’d ever produced using surrogates.

This year, with finances a little tighter, Posh sent me into the backyard with the kids, a piece of cardboard and stubby crayons.

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“Make it happen,” she urged, and then went back to her microwave popcorn and TV shows.

Here’s the crazy part. OK, here’s the especially crazy part.

On the very first shot, magic. No one blinked. No one tried to dig anything out of a nostril.

No one’s arms looked fat; no one’s hair fell across her face in a way that made her look “like a total freak-a-zoid.”

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There were no vampire shadows under the eyes (two of our children might actually be vampires), and the smiles themselves were a brush stroke by Cezanne.

It was a Christmas miracle.

Remember that our kids are wise guys, every single one — the girls more than the guys. We seem to have raised the kind of people who, in the name of a cheap laugh, will just spontaneously fall down. They are the blood enemies of serious moments and decorum.

“Have you no dignity?” I’ll scold them during some giggle fit, at which point they just all collapse at once. Ha-ha-spittle-spittle-kabam.

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Anyway, this year, I managed to take the perfect Christmas card shot on the very first attempt, a holiday hole-in-one. But I realize you can’t return to the house 90 seconds later and announce to your spouse: “Nailed it! Someone call the Getty!”

I mean, you can, but she’ll doubt you. Like lawyers, wives will dredge up 100 incidents in the distant past that were similarly hasty. Like, when you picked out a wedding tux in two minutes. Or bought a house in five. Or told the obstetrician, “Could you hurry it up, pal? The Bears are on at noon.”

So we lingered in the backyard awhile, playing chess with the Adirondack chairs, throwing rocks at trees.

Selfless to a fault, the kids kept badgering me about my Christmas list, so I used the opportunity to jot down a few things:

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— A pop musical renaissance, similar to what occurred in the late ‘60s.

— Pixie dust.

— An electronic loofah sponge.

— A fully lacquered shuffleboard table like you find in taverns in northern Wisconsin.

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— Wedgie cream.

No, I don’t know exactly what wedgie cream is either, but it seems like the sort of product that — should it ever come along — would make an excellent stocking stuffer. Besides, the word “wedgie” in conjunction with the word “cream” made them all laugh so hard they actually quit looking at their cellphones.

Anyway, after 45 minutes, we trudged back into the house, pretending to have worked our very hardest to capture the perfect Christmas shot.

“This might work, I don’t know,” I said.

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“Yeah, the light was sorta funky,” said the little girl.

“And the squirrels kept having sex,” said the boy.

“Don’t overdo it,” I whispered, at which point he just collapsed to the floor and everyone laughed.

Posh fell for this reverse psychology. She is such a sucker sometimes, though this is the first time in about 22 years.

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“You know, I like it,” she said when she saw the digital shot.

Well played, right? Thank you very much. For other tips on sophisticated husbanding, visit my website (good luck finding it; I can’t).

By the way, I fully expect Posh to reshoot the Christmas photo any day. She’s reportedly taking the kids to London for a few days on Tuesday.

Make it happen, luv.

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chris.erskine@latimes.com


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