Gay Dad Life

Remembering Our Family History With Christmas Tree Ornaments

The Fisher-Paulson family tree isn’t fancy, but it does have a Lenox china Superman, Cruella de Vil and winged Pekingeses. And angels.

The oldest ornament on the tree goes back 75 years. It is a cardboard house decorated in silver glitter, the kind you could pick up at the Woolworth’s. The family story goes was that my father, Hap, had served his time, and was due to be mustered out of the Army on December 8, 1941. His mother, Grandma Sadie, celebrated Little Christmas, December 6, with a tree from a lot on Myrtle Avenue. Grandpa Carl put on the lights; Sadie put on the cardboard ornaments and the tinsel. The next morning was the Pearl Harbor attack, and Hap’s leave was canceled.

Christmas came and went. On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, the day that the tree always came down, Carl went to the basement to get the storage box and Sadie said, “Stop. The tree stays up until my son sees it.” There was a war going on and Hap did not get back to Queens until April 1942. The tree was a fire hazard of dead leaves by then, but that little cardboard house still hung on its branch.

In the 1960s, Hap and Nurse Vivian lived in South Ozone Park, and the tradition was that the weekend before Christmas, every family helped all the other families put up their trees. The Carbones next door had an aluminum tree, and Margie offered a glass of wine to the adults before they went to the McCafferys who had a 10-foot fir that always had to be chopped into a bush to fit through their screen door. Peggy offered a beer to the adults and then off to the Caddens, who always served highballs.

The last house was the Paulsons, so our tree was the least sober, one year, just leaned against the wall. As in all the other homes, each family brought an ornament from their tree, so that their home was part of ours, and our home was part of theirs.

Being much more sentimental than Brother X or Brother Not X, I inherited this hodgepodge of decoration. One year I made a flight of angels out of clothespins and cotton.

When Brian was a boy, his mother (Nana) was a single woman, working two jobs, but she always took both of her sons out to lunch on Christmas eve, and gave them each their first present of the season: a dragon for Craig and a unicorn for Brian.

In the early years of our marriage (the 1980s), Brian and I lived in a five-story walk-up above a funeral parlor in Jersey City. One winter, I got fired from my retail job, just as Brian had decided that he could not jeté one more Nutcracker. We got the last scraggly scrub pine on Newark Avenue, and carried it up the stairs.

Don’t know how, and our dog (Miss Grrrl) never told us, but at 2 in the morning, all by itself, the tree fell out the window, fortunately not hitting any passerby on John F. Kennedy Boulevard. In flannel bathrobes, we ran down the stairs and found the only intact items were: his bell made out of macaroni, one of the clothespin angels and Grandma Sadie’s cardboard house. The year our Christmas tree committed suicide, we decided to move to California.

We’ve lost other angels along the way, but for almost two decades, our friends and family have wandered into the blue bungalow in the outer, outer, outer Excelsior, on the very edge of San Francisco, sipped a glass of mulled wine and left an ornament. And over the years, Uncle Jon has made candy canes out of stained glass, and Uncle Tim contributed the Barbie: Solo in the Spotlight and another year brought a ceramic piranha.

Often I’ve wondered what values we teach to our children, and which they ignore. I know this: Zane and Aidan take the tree as seriously as we do. Zane comes with his reindeer made of Popsicle sticks, and Aidan with his star made out of emery boards. And when Zane asks me to make hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, I know that all of these Batman snow globes, felt stockings (one for each of the triplets) and bread dough holly wreaths will be part of the tale that he will tell his children a decade or so from now. And that child will wonder at the angels who will always light the Fisher-Paulson tree.

May our holidays, and our stories, be part of yours.

This post was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!

And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Pics of the Moment Before and After Gay Men Become Dads

Dig through your phones — what was the last pic taken of you BEFORE you became a dad?

We all have THAT photo: the one taken moments after we become fathers for the first time. For some of us, we're doing "skin to skin" in a delivery room. For others, we're standing proudly alongside our newly adopted child and judge in a courtroom. However or wherever it happens, though, we make sure to snap a picture of it.

But what about that last photo BEFORE you first became a dad? What does that image look like, we wondered? Well, we asked our Instagram community to dig through through phones and find out. Some of us are enjoying a last carefree meal or glass of wine, others of us are captured nervously contemplating our futures. Whatever it is, we've decided these BEFORE pictures are just as meaningful.

Enjoy some of our favorites! Want to play along? Dig through your phones and send us your pics to!

Keep reading... Show less

Gay Dad in Sundance's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' is Relatable AF

Sundance hit "Brittany Runs a Marathon" stars a gay dad trying to get in shape.

Who would make for the best marathon training partner for an overweight, overly boozed 27-year-old woman? A gay dad, of course!

The pairing, for any gay man who has been subjected to impossible beauty standards (not unlike... literally all women?) makes a bit too much sense after watching the new Sundance film, "Brittany Runs a Marathon," starring SNL writer Jillian Bell (as the 27-year-old) and Micah Stock as the (somewhat *ahem* older) gay dad.

Based on a true story, the film follows Brittany, an overweight and over-boozed 20-something, trying to clean up her act by training for the New York City marathon — while doing so, she meets Seth (the gay dad), and the two begin to train together, along with Brittany's neighbor Catherine. Each has their own motivation for running: getting one's live together, recovering from a messy divorce, or an attempt to impress one's athletic son. (Which is the gay dad? Guess you'll have to watch to find out!)

We won't give too much more away, apart from saying that the trio — based off of actual people and events — really works. It's the feel good film you're waiting to see.

Expert Advice

Your 15 Most Common Questions About Adoption, Answered by an Expert

We asked our Instagram community for their biggest questions about adoption. Then asked Molly Rampe Thomas of Choice Network to answer them.

As part of our new "Ask an Expert" series on Instagram, our community of dads and dads-to-be sent us their questions on adoption in the United States. Molly Rampe Thomas, founder of Choice Network, answered them.

Keep reading... Show less

'Life Is Amazing': Congrats to Gay Dads Whose Families Recently Grew!

Help us congratulate gay dads on their recent births and adoptions last month!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded in the last month or so a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse