I never thought I'd have kids. When I came out to my mother her only lament was, "And you would have made such a wonderful father too."
With that winning response she was able to pass along both a complement to my character while simultaneously insulting my sexuality. My mother has mad skills that way.
I made peace with the fact that fatherhood wouldn't be a part of my life.
So, instead of focusing on my lack of a child, I used what would have been my superb fatherly talents on my many nieces and nephews. I was the exuberant, fun uncle, the one whisking them away to the movies, buying them toys and electronics on the random, and giving them candy when their parents told them no.
And Christmas time was my special time. Christmas was when I really brought my gay uncle A-Game. I'd bask in the kids' excitement and cheer as I'd give them their gifts on Christmas Eve, despite the protests from my siblings to wait until Christmas morning. My gifts were always the best -- much to the chagrin of my annoyed sibs.
The kids and I would joyfully soak up our yearly dose of Heat Misers, Rudolphs, and Smurfs Christmas Specials and laugh and talk and be loud and obnoxious. It was delightful!
Being a childless gay couple felt fine. We didn't feel incomplete. We were happy. We were fulfilled.
Or at least I thought we were.
Being in a 10-year plus relationship, my boyfriend (now husband) and I would often engage in the "what if" conversations. What if we had a daughter, what would we name her? What if we had a son, would he play sports? We're both stereotypically terrible at sports.
Our pillow talk chats about children were always "someday, maybe" conversations, akin to those we would have when we'd someday, maybe be millionaires, owned our own comic book store with a hair salon in it and had a pet white tiger we'd name Raza. You know, normal stuff.
This all changed three years ago. Suddenly my hubby's baby biological clock started thundering about our living space, invading our causal dinner conversations, and taking over our talk of the future. The "what it" became "I want."
I'm not sure if seeing our gay friends suddenly become parents ignited the latent baby fever within him or if the fact that he was nearing 35 and middle age was coldly staring him in the face, but whatever the reason the baby talk got real. Real fast.
I still wasn't convinced. I can't say why I was being a fence sitter. I believe it might have simply been because I accepted my childless future the moment I embraced my homosexuality. I buried that desire. I made peace with my fatherless life, and I simply loved being an uncle. As much as my husband pestered and cajoled me I could not envision a child in our lives. It seemed like an impossibility.
That is until a little over two years ago when I was watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas while mindlessly folding laundry. I was alone in our tiny studio apartment in San Francisco and was finding myself getting more and more invested in the classic cartoon.
As I folded towels, I thought about Christmas. I pondered about the magic of the holiday, how wonderful it is to share this time of year with the people you love.
I thought about how deeply this simple story and cartoon touched my heart as a child, how I would sit and snuggle up with my father and delight in his amusement at the Grinch's smile as it grew and grew across the character's face. I found myself oddly getting emotional. Nostalgia does that to you sometimes.
As cheesy as it might sound, as the Grinch's heart grew three times on screen I realized that I too would love to pass along a cherished childhood moment like this to a child of my own. I realized standing there with laundry in my hands that there so much within me, in my heart, in my soul, that I would love to give and share with a child of my own.
I knew then that not only "would I have made a great father someday," but that I could actually, in reality, make a great father today.
Now, my gorgeous little girl is nearly two years old and she's the best of me. She's the best part of my husband and I. As I look at our vibrant, energetic daughter, and her sheer joy at everything Christmas, my heart is full.
And the best part?
Snuggling on our warm, gray couch, with the Christmas tree lights flickering in the background and watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas together. And though I've seen it 20 times in the last two weeks I'd watch it 20 times more just to soak in moments like this.
BRIAN ANDERSEN is a writer and indie comic book creator who lives in San Francisco with his husband and gorgeous baby daughter.
Photography by Andrew Weeks