Thursday, December 9, 2010
Another Blue Christmas
They were not a feature of my childhood home, but they were of my liberal Christian home church, which was then Congregational - I think that, too, has passed, and Congregational merged with another denomination. You can go home again, but you will be disappointed.
This big old stone church had a circular sanctuary, it was called - sanctuary - a safe place where they didn't pick on you. The balcony, where we always sat, wrapped most of the way around, but the front of the church was given to the altar, choir loft, and pipe organ. Every Christmas the altar was banked with dozens of large red poinsettias, paid for by congregants and then taken to the homes of elders and the sick. They were the color in this serious place, along with the stained-glass windows and, on Christmas Eve, red carnations on the ushers' lapels.
Another good memory of poinsettias: the year my mother died, I was sitting at my kitchen table feeling sad when I saw come up the walk Marcia, from my meditation group, half-hidden behind the biggest poinsettia I'd ever seen. It was a newer variety, smaller bracts, almost shaped like roses, entirely unexpected and badly needed.
Where is that beautiful plant today? Gone, along with forty or fifty others, no matter how valiantly I tried to save them. That's the problem. Theoretically, you can save a poinsettia, and I have known a woman who did, an aged Greek immigrant who had a touch with plants.
But I, as much as I love the idea of gardening, am not an earth person, and my attempts to help the plants live on never work. They begin dropping leaves as soon as I bring them in, and soon look naked and unloved. We probably don't have enough sun for them here in the midwest. And I used to over-water them. Then I learned not to do that, and began neglecting them instead, but that didn't work either.
I am very fond of plants, and a great many have died in my care, so many that I now have ten or twelve houseplants that do live for me - the two African violets even blossom (watered only from the bottom). This fondness makes me want to keep potted plants alive. In theory, you can buy a poinsettia and on January 1, discard it. In practice, I never have. I nurse it along until spring, when it may have only a little umbrella of leaves on a naked stem. Then I put it outside in the sunniest spot, where I do forget to water it, and the outdoor cats knock it over. Then I throw it away.
So today, commenting that the little poinsettias in Kroger's were overpriced at $5.99, I shook my head and told Tom, "I am not buying a poinsettia this year. I'm not going through that."
"We'll see about that," he said mildly.
"Not an amaryllis, either," I said.
But that's another story.
[image: Yellow leaf. Neither red nor green.]