There is nothing more hopeless or depressing than poinsettias the day AFTER Christmas. I know there are happy people, those who think the glass is interminably half full, who are pampering those vulgar red plants with manure and clear water, saying things like, "In California they grow as large as bushes!" Off with their heads! Poinsettias have no place in a non-Christmas world, which is why I carry mine out to the trash the minute Christmas is over. They are weeks old and have already grown spindly, dropping their phony leaves, which curl up pathetically on the hard floor. And it's not that I've ignored them. I take excellent care of them, but they are a planned obsolescent plant. Stick your fingers in the dirt. It's not real dirt. It's Barbie dirt. Little foam pellets. What can live longer than three weeks in dirt like that? Christmas is over. Poinsettias are pointless.
Our tree is finally up. It's a skinny, fake, celluloid thing but I have a lifetime collection of decorations to punch it up. I love my decorations, especially the pink fairy in honor of Lucy, the Santa Clauses, lots of them, the painted eggs from Saltzburg, the Maine lobster fisherman, Mother Goose, the angel, Tom's trout. I could go on and on. In fact, I have. I topped it off with Santa's hat, an idea that I unapologetically stole from Sarah. I always tie red satin ribbons on the tree. I copied that from Dennis Garff, circa 1966. In fact, every good decorating idea I've ever had came from Dennis. He's dead now, dammit. Drowned himself like Ophelia.
I get a little grumpy during the holidays and think about becoming a communist, or blowing up my study, but then I decorate the tree and I know I'm going to live through all that gaity and sparkle another year. I know I'm actually going to enjoy myself. Fa la la la la la la la la.
Someone said I was hard to buy for, but it's not true. Here's a possible list:
1. Any recent novel that has won the Booker Prize or the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. Or a good mystery. Or a history of tulips or World War II in Holland. Or a book on design or decorating with lots of pictures. Or any book that the giver thought was a sensational read.
2. A DVD from Acorn Media. They carry all the good stuff from Masterpiece Theater like "Cranford," "Foyle's War," "Detective Morse." Any Bette Davis movies.
3. Costume jewelry, especially bracelets or a cheap watch with a red band.
4. A new board game that doesn't require a knowledge of war or diplomacy.
5. A turtle neck sweater, XL.
6. Black leather gloves.
7. Any picture painted by a grandchild or a map drawn by Max. A photograph of your family.
8. Ina Garten's first cookbook. Any cookbook. I'm cooking again.
9. A good looking alarm clock.
10. A vintage hat with a veil from the 30's or 40's.