Alternate Family ArrangementsPoly Families

Look At That Tree!

Tonight Tom wouldn’t stop looking at our Christmas tree.

Will came home from doing some last-minute Christmas shopping. (For some strange reason having a two-week old infant in the house has set us all back on our holiday chores.) He stomped upstairs with a grumble about needing some sleep. It was just as well. He was pounding around all day, and if he hadn’t needed to go shopping, I was going to put him down for a nap—baba, blankie, and all.

But then Renee passed out too. She had been diligently trying to cram the three weeks worth of Christmas movies into the four days left, but somewhere in the middle of Santa Claus The Movie—right at the part where John Lithgow is overacting (…that’s a little joke, there)—she kind of just keeled over.

Fortunately, that’s where having an Uncle Chris comes in handy. It wasn’t a planned tag in, but they obviously both needed sleep, I’ve had a deplorable lack of blistering hot dates for the last couple of weeks…for some odd reason, and I love feeling redonkulously invaluable. There’s nothing quite like going shopping at Costco with Renee, being told NOT to buy the microwavable mini-corn dogs, and being able to say “remember that time when I totally didn’t let your son die?”

Besides, the chance to nibble on Tom’s toes without being told to “quit shaking the baby for extra health like you’re Jaws in the video game!” is always a welcome change of pace.

I warmed Tom a bottle that mom had pumped a few hours earlier, changed him so he was dry, somehow managed to pull off a one-handed feeding of the cats without either broken dish or feline casualty, and sat down to have some Chris and Tom time.

Tom was having none of it. He was gassy and fussy and being not at all a sleeping angel like the picture on the box they shipped him in. He kept kicking out of his swaddle and then being annoyed that his feet were loose. Then he would make a face like he was dying right before a rumble from his diaper that in our house goes by the euphemism “activity.”

“I ordered a sweet darling from the website,” I told him, Spock-arching my eyebrow at his impudence. “If you can’t be at least 34% less squirmy and fussy, I’m going to look into your return policy.”

Tom’s response to my incredibly funny joke ended with my changing him again. The fewer details I share here, the better.

So we walked around the downstairs, and I sang the verses I know of Hallelujah (because if Rufus Wainwright or k.d. lang didn’t sing them, I can only remember about one word of every three) and tried to find a place we could sit that Tom didn’t object to.

Then he kind of just went still, and I noticed he was looking at the Christmas tree. Not just looking—staring. Minutes went by, but he was perfectly enraptured. Normally he kind of looks around, gaze moving from thing to thing, but tonight he was just fixated on that tree. I kept following his eyes back and wondering what it was he was so interested in. We don’t have any particularly flashy ornaments. The lights were bright and colorful but kind of boring. We get a tiny tree each year because Renee loves Christmas, and we wrap a single strand of LED’s around it since we can leave them on indefinitely. They’re not even runner lights or anything. They don’t change color or twinkle.

But Tom was staring at it like it was the most incredible thing he’d ever seen. And of course when you’re dealing with spit up and poop happening during changes and sleeping in two hour shifts and trying to feed cats one handed, sometimes you miss the blatantly obvious: it probably actually, literally IS the most incredible thing he’s ever seen. I followed his eyes back to the tree one more time.

And then I saw the lights.

And they were….spectacular. They were bright and colored and they blazed across the spectrum in a scintillating display of blues and reds and greens and oranges. It may have gotten a little dusty in my living room for just a moment. The same kind of dust that settles every time I watch The Iron Giant or that episode of Buffy where Joyce dies. You know…dust.

“Thanks Bub,” I said to Tom. “I never really see them anymore. But they are quite breathtaking, aren’t they?”

Tom simply stared, but I could totally tell what he was thinking: “I’m going to remind you how to see the whole world again, Uncle Chris. Just you wait. You haven’t ‘seen’ a lot of things. Not in a long, long time.

Also, quit shaking me for extra health.”


Chris lives with his girlfriend and her husband in a polyamorous family. On Friday Dec 6th, 2013, the married couple had a darling boy. Not "dad" but so much more than "Uncle Chris" he spends much of his time either trying to figure out the boundaries between parent/not-parent or navigating a world ill equipped to deal with non traditional families. When he's not trying to be a grounded parent, he teaches English as a second language and maintains his own blog about writing (

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One Comment

  1. 🙂 My little one has a string of lights over her changing table. She’s still so little that she can’t see much but she can see the lights and she totally loves them. Fairy lights are my no 1 baby show gift fir new parents.

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