I love my job. I love cooking for people; it’s sharing a simple, created thing which nourishes and warms. There’s no critique of art when all the audience wants is a pancake, and there’s no lack of originality when all that’s requested is a pair of eggs, sunny-side up. The job opens up so many opportunities for meeting new people and making good friends. Not to mention how much it demands of me: chef, artist, writer, and photographer. The family business is a crazy one. My skills as a photographer are called upon for food, but also for portraits and family photo shoots as well (I have never had to do a wedding, thank goodness, but I loved doing both the engagement shoot and month-after-wedding shoot for my brother and pixie-in-law).

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Well, during the holidays… our humble mountain establishment was graced with a family who loves to celebrate Christmas where it’s high up, snowy, and cozy. A pair of grandparents, parents, and two sons. They’ve come several years running, and we all look forward to it. The lads are my pirate boys, and they are only four and six years old. They call me “Captain Hook”. I legitimately question whether they know my actual name. The last time they were here we played hide-and-seek, I chased after them with a bread hook from our industrial sized mixer, and they generally had the time of their lives. This time around was a little more sedate, but there was still plenty of running, hiding under tables, and brandishing hooks.

The grandmother asked me if I would please take their family portraits and Christmas pictures. I was happy to oblige, given my bond with my pirate boys.

If you are questioning my attachment to these random customers, think again. Who else is going to explain tactfully why pirates aren’t on Santa’s ‘nice’ list? Who else is going to applaud them looking like ninjas when they have their ski masks on? And who else is going to tie a scarf around her head and put a single hoop earring in just for an audience of two? Besides, their parents feed the flames with ever opportunity, and we all have far too much fun. Exhibit a:

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The Nomadic Troglodyte and the Pixie Elf cooking breakfast like pirate bawses.

The younger boy, and the easiest one for me to grab and haul around as a ‘pirate hostage’, stopped me in the doorway at one point while I was stalking toward him. I crouched down to listen and he stammered, “You… you… Captain Hook can’t get me when I’m a ninja.”

“Does that mean pirates can’t see ninjas?” I asked respectfully as I knelt down in front of him, “Or does it mean that we can’t catch them when we see them?”

“Not get me when I’m a ninja,” he repeated emphatically.

I smiled. This kid didn’t want our entire relationship to be built on pirate chases and excitement. He wanted to be chill around me, and maybe get to know me a little bit after the calmer report we had built the night before while he and his brother were hiding under the table and I was the only grown-up who was crouched down and talking to them. “Okay,” I said, thinking that was the end of it. “Truce.”

“Hug?” he asked, spreading his arms out.

My heart melted inside me. “Yeah.”

His little arms wrapped around my neck, and my littlest pirate boy secured one of the happiest memories I have of 2016. Two days later, I had a photoshoot with a ninja, and when I asked him to cross his arms like he had attitude, it was not what I expected. I got a fearsome fighting pose (seriously, like he was about to take somebody out with a throat strike or something) instead of casually crossed arms.

Just another feather to add to my photographer’s cap: photoshoot with a ninja… the most adorable ninja Captain Hook ever had the pleasure of hugging.

How about the rest of you? Happy memories to cap off 2016? Anyone?

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