Let’s Be Frank: The Diary of a Divorced Gay Dad
“Hey buddy, we’re going to get a real tree this year!” was easily the worst 11-word sentence I’ve ever uttered in my life. My intentions were nothing but the best, but I made that promise without thinking things through.
Ever since my son was a baby, my ex-husband and I had an enormous, over-the-top 14-foot fake Christmas tree. It’s the kind of tree that makes other trees green(er) with envy – it’s majestic, it’s a beast, and it’s a cinch to set up. Between the two of us, it would be standing and lit within a half hour. When we separated, we agreed that my ex would keep the tree, and I would take the ornaments. (And yes, my ornament collection is as badass as you think it is.) This left me tree-less and creative this year, and I thought to myself “I’m going to show Briggs what Christmas is really about.” Boy, did I fu*k that one up.
I have my son every other Saturday and the last one we spent together was the perfect day to get a tree. I woke up invigorated to go chop one down in a forest and bring it back home. We live in Connecticut, so this is very commonplace and considered brag-worthy material for Facebook. It didn’t dawn on me that I’ve never used a saw in my life, except maybe once during shop class in the eighth grade. When we arrived to the tree farm, there were saws and a forest and that was it. No happy helpers, no “saw man” (I was praying for a saw man), and no gloves to protect my manicured hands. Just a sled to transport the tree back after we’ve slaughtered it. I turned to Briggs and said “OK dude, let’s go do this!!” His smile was my motivating factor and I paraded into the woods like a damned lumberjack.
Upon spotting the ideal evergreen, I had a Clark Griswold moment and got a total tree hard-on. It was like something you see in a movie, or perhaps a miniature version of the Rockefeller Center tree. It was magical, and it had to be ours. Briggs was on board, and I started at the trunk like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I was murdering this poor tree and giving it an agonizing death. If trees could scream, this one would have been shrieking in terror. My anxiety helped get me through it, and eventually it toppled over with a big THUD! that made Briggs laugh hysterically. Together we put our treasure on the sled and pulled it to the cabin so they could package it up to put on my car. The tree was pissed, so naturally it sapped the hell out of my roof.
Once we got home, I quickly took it down, surveyed the destruction done to my car, and brought her inside. The smell was phenomenal and my son was totally enthused by the whole process. From there, the true sh*tshow began. I cleared ample space and rested the tree on the floor. I dug out my tree stand, which is super deluxe and expensive and supposedly simple. I cautiously wrapped my arms around the tree, stood it upright, and placed it into the stand. It fit beautifully, and I felt relieved. “This really isn’t that hard at all to do by myself,” I thought. One by one, I turned each screw, deep inside of the freshly cut trunk; sap oozing out like blood. They were as tight as possible, and it stood as erect as a skyscraper. Until I let go and it fell, immediately – crashing across my living room and breaking several things. My son screamed, mainly because I screamed. The tree was still screaming, and probably laughing its ass off at me by this point.
I tried and tried and tried again. Over and over – standing it up, just to watch it fall. I was Sisyphus, and the tree was my giant boulder, eternally rolling down the hill. Eventually, I removed all of the furniture from the room because the tree had won and was strategically knocking everything out. My son gave up on the entire thing and had his faced buried in his iPad. I was legitimately on the verge of tears, when I realized that I probably couldn’t do this alone. I had chopped down a tree that was far too huge for me to handle, and now I was paying the price and humiliating myself in front of my kid. Half of the day was already gone, and I wanted to salvage some of that time with Briggs. So after he went to bed, I did what any smart gay man would do and dialed my hunkiest friends to come save the day.
By morning, the tree was up and lit and I was exhausted. I hung strands of lights until close to dawn, because my OCD decided it would take over and decorate. I felt a mixture of pride and shame, and knew I had to redeem this Christmas experience somehow. After seeing that Briggs had zero interest in hanging ornaments, I threw out a sentence that I was 100% comfortable with: “Hey buddy, we’re going to get the stuff to make gingerbread cookies!” He gave me the same smile I saw before entering the tree forest, and I knew he was content. I can make flawless gingerbread cookies with my eyes closed, because that is my realm of expertise. We had a blast making them, and when they were finished, he grouped two together on a plate. I asked if those were intended for Santa, but he replied “no, Daddy – these are you and me together.” That legitimately had me on the verge of tears, but this time tears of joy – which is what Christmas is truly all about.
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