Picking out the perfect Christmas tree was an annual quest in my family. Unfortunately, each of us had a slightly different vision of perfection. My dad favored trees so tall that they had to duck in order to fit in our living room, whereas Mom craved a perfect symmetry of branches, and my brother just wanted to be sure that there was plenty of room underneath for presents.
One year, visions of an eco-Christmas danced in my head, and I proposed getting a live tree, one that we could plant in the front yard as a reminder of Christmas for years to come. My parents procured a 5-foot blue spruce and ensconced it in the living room. They coddled it, talked to it, poured water down it, and watched it droop in its place of honor (next to the radiator).
We hoped a little Christmas cheer would do the trick. As soon as my brother and I got home for vacation, we hauled all the ornaments down from the attic and trimmed the wilting tree. The decorations didn't help, so the next morning we unstrung the lights, packed everything back up to the attic, chopped a hole in the ground, and planted the spruce in what proved to be its final resting place.
Afterward, Mom dragged our giant red geranium into the living room, ringed it with poinsettias, and piled the presents around it.
Christmas morning we sat around the geranium, drinking hot chocolate and opening gifts. The blue spruce hung on until spring, but I think of Christmas every time I see that geranium.