Back in September 2017, I posed for a professional photographer for the first time, doing so before the camera of Katie Berry at Smoketree Photography. Three months later (December 2017), Katie, her partner, and their friends in the Everyday Gay Holiday art studio/collective on Atwood Avenue threw a holiday get-together for their friends in the LGBT+ community — a “HOLIgay” party. While I’m not a party person, I jumped at the chance to doll myself up, snack on some food, and mingle with other LGBT+ people from the Madison community.
Being the photographer that she is, Katie set up a corner in the studio to let the partygoers use her fancy camera and snap a few free selfies in front of a festive “toyland/horse/holiday/winter wonderland” setting. Not wanting to pass up a photo opportunity while looking fabulous, I took the remote and snapped a few photos. There I was in red hair, soft sweater, and patent vinyl Forever 21 skirt, and Katie’s remote clicker in hand, smiling and being all beautiful for the camera. (Oh, the Santa hat was among the available props in the studio.)
A lot has happened to us in the 12 months and 1 week since December 17, 2017: Everyday Gay Holiday amicably dissolved due to its principals moving to other locales and endeavors. Katie and her partner relocated from Madison to Connecticut, renaming her photography business afterwards (it’s now Cate Barry Photography). As for me, I posed for Katie’s camera a couple more times in the spring and enjoyed every minute of it. (Note to self: I still gotta those prints yet). My toying with buying a condo ended as abruptly as it began, though at least I still have a roof over my head. My car started going on the fritz (exhaust muffler replaced, suspension springs need to be replaced). And biggest of all for me, my previous place of employment eliminated my position at the end of June, though thankfully I did find new temp-to-hire work just over a month later.
It’s that last big event that I’m still adjusting to as I write this: I’m doing the best I can in this work assignment, and it seems that I’m impressing the people there, though I’m still not sure if I’ll be a good long-term fit for the role and their organization. That uncertainty and the lingering feeling of not having a job this summer dampened my holiday enthusiasm here in December. In fact, this year I left my Christmas tree in the basement and most of my decorations in the closet. Yeah, my normal January 1 chore of stowing away the decorations is going to be so easy this time around. This diminished holiday spirit is not unlike how I felt when I moved to Madison for new employment 16 years ago. Trying to feel out a new city and a new job prompted me to not go hog-wild over the holidays that year… though in my defense, I didn’t have a tree to decorate (I threw out my old artificial one after the previous Christmas).
But know that I’m no Ebbie Scrooge: I did get in the gift-giving spirit this year, though more modestly than in years past. I do have a couple of decorations put up (though, as noted, no tree). And I took part in my family’s holiday get-together this past Saturday, where seeing my sister’s beautiful tree made me regret leaving my own tree in storage a little bit.
Rather than wallow in the uncertainty of my present, I will appreciate the good things in my life right now (employment, healthy family, good friends). I will also spend this day looking back fondly at happier Christmases past, including this moment from over a year ago when I felt not only festive but also welcomed as a part of Madison’s LGBT+ community. Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, here’s hoping your season is a safe and enjoyable one. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.