Next to forgetting your wife's anniversary and remembering your mother's birthday belatedly, the next worse family problem is botching a grandchild's name.
Or worse yet, his face.
It happened to me over the Christmas holiday while attending my grandson's pre-school sing-along inside an adorned sanctuary.
Like his brother before him, this was a golden moment for 3-year-old Rex, his chance to shine and bring pride to the family. For two years prior, he was an understudy to older brother Rocco, who moved on to kindergarten.
Now, it was up to Rex to uphold the tradition while his two younger sisters watched, along with a circle of grandparents, parents and others who packed their way into the church.
As the minutes turned into seconds, anxiety slowly crept in. Then finally, in marched the children like a parade of toy soldiers, dressed to the nines. But where was Rex? Did we miss him? Perhaps he got cold feet and stayed behind, hoping nobody would notice.
Hey, the kid had a pretty fair voice, especially when he clamored for a toy with his siblings or didn't get his way with the TV remote. More like a tenor, I would say.
The harder we looked, the more futile it became. Then finally ...
"Look, there he is, with the Santa cap on. How could we have missed him?" my wife rejoiced. "Get that camera ready."
I came equipped with my best. A 300mm telephoto lens was cocked and ready to shoot like a Gatling gun.
So what if we were in the rear pews. It didn't matter, not with this photo arsenal. What made it tricky was his position. Third row. Partial view. Nothing a little maneuvering wouldn't cure.
Back and forth I angled, looking to capture a facial expression. From afar, chances of getting a clean shot of the kid with his mouth open singing posed a challenge.
In and out of the pews I crawled, ducking for cover as a firing line of cameras clicked above me. I found a vantage point and fired away, getting that cherub-looking face into a tight frame. From what I could gather, the youngster seemed like he was smiling back.
The more I looked at him, the more suspicious I became. Though the resemblance was there, a semblance of doubt prevailed. By now, I must have rattled off 20 frames, enough for a short video had I chosen to go that route.
And then a dead give-away. The tot casually lifted his arm and — picked his nose.
Wait a minute here! No grandchild of mine would be so uncouth as to pick his nose in public, let alone a concert heralding the birth of our Savior. After further scrutiny, I found Rex in all his splendor and glory on the other side of the chorale, handsomely dressed in a vest with his red necktie.
We've been to a number of these pageants with our own children. Our daughter played the Virgin Mary one year as a teen and looked like a statue.
Another son played an angel. The sneeze he let out rattled the cré®che. Another son was a Wise Man bearing gifts. He looked regal with his turban and colorful robes, the beard tilted over his brow.
All the while, I was focused on the wrong kid here. Without wasting another moment, I clicked off two shots before the last number ended and let it go at that.
I quickly alerted my wife that she had been ogling the wrong child all along and that our grandson had been singing incognito. What to do with a cache of errant Nativity photos? I could always try to seek out the right parents and email them.
Too suspicious. In this age of child predators, I would surely get the jaundiced eye. I could have them processed and sent to the nursery school. Also precarious. The principal would surely chase down the source.
Suddenly, I was a marked man, unless I deleted the evidence. On the other hand, I could have some fun with this wrong exposure.
A reception followed in the classroom — a time for everyone to count their blessings and enjoy the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" as they say in Latin. Payback time for all the pranks my son played on me.
"Get any good shots of Rex?" he wondered.
"A bunch. He looked terrific in that Santa's hat. Great idea. Made him stand out in the crowd."
I showed him the errant pictures on the display screen.
"Hey, you got the wrong kid," he moaned.
"No problem. We all know what he looks like."
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Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Gazette. He contributes this regular column.