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Oh, Christmas Tree

Friday, January 5, 2024
When the Christmas tree arrived in early December, all the other plants in the house made fun of him. At night, they would gather in the living room and tease him mercilessly.
"Hey, hey Christmas tree, know why they call you a conifer?" the hanging pothos would begin. "Cuz you're shaped like a cone! An ugly cone!"
"Cone face! Cone face!" the other plants would chant.
"Ugly, ugly cone face!" the hanging pothos would conclude.
The plants would jeer and laugh. The Christmas tree would ooze a little sap and shed a few more needles.
Some of the mean jokes the plants told weren't very good, but they still hurt the poor Christmas tree's feelings, especially when the little succulents giggled along with the rest of them. Those three had seemed so nice at first, in their cute little painted pots. But they laughed all the same. One night, they even told their own cruel joke.
"Hey, hey Christmas tree," said the little spiky round one, "what's the inverse function of x to the second power?"
"I don't - I don't know," stammered the Christmas tree, who wasn't very good at algebra, especially under such circumstances.
"It's the square
!" squealed the flat, pale green one.
"Get it? Get it! Because he has no roots!" explained the green and white striped one.
The other plants chuckled and elbowed each other knowingly.
"He's a dead plant standing and he doesn't even know it!" cackled the snake plant.
But he did know it and they sure wouldn't let him forget it either. The base of his trunk ached; he had been chopped nearly in half. Without his roots, he knew he wouldn't last long. And the metal rods of the tree stand stabbed painfully into him on all sides, like some sort of medieval torture device. But the worst pain of all was the ache in his heart from missing his friends at the tree farm. They had held roots and danced and played games and told kind, funny jokes that didn't hurt anyone's feelings. To think of them now, while these bullies laughed and laughed, was more than he could take. He cried and sobbed and wept. He sniffled and sniveled, whimpered and wailed. He shook with each sob and when he shook, needles rained down.
The other plants were grossed out by the Christmas tree's pitiful weeping. They moved into the far corner of the living room. Forming a circle that the Christmas tree couldn't help but find depressingly similar to his old dance circles at the farm, the plants gossipped into the wee hours of the morning. They did not dance.
At last, before the family dog woke, they scampered off back to their assigned places, leaving the Christmas tree a few peaceful moments of solitude.
Just you wait,
thought the Christmas tree,
just you wait.
A couple weeks later, the adult children arrived home for the holidays. Together, the family decorated the Christmas tree. The balls and the bells and the candy canes and the porcelain angels and the lights and the stuffed bears and the nutcrackers and the fluffy sheep and the miniature Taj Mahal and the dozen or so other last minute gifts weighed heavily on the tree's weary branches. But he endured.
I'll be so pretty,
he thought.
But the newly arrived poinsettia made faces at him the whole time from her spot on the coffee table.
"Wait until you see my lights. We'll see who's laughing then," mouthed the Christmas tree in a rare moment of courage.
It was time. The father pulled up a chair and fixed a star to the very top of the tree. Then the older daughter plugged in the string lights while the mother turned off the overhead ones. The multi-colored LED's cast a soft, calm glow throughout the room. The glittery decorations shimmered beautifully. The Christmas tree felt a surge of pride.
This is life,
he thought.
This is how it's meant to be. Who needs roots anyway?
The family stepped back to admire the tree.
"It's a little crooked, right?" said the son.
"Yeah," said the younger daughter. "At least the ornaments hide how bare it really is."
"Maybe we should have gotten that other one," said the mother.
"Well, maybe you should be watering it more!" said the father.
"And maybe I should never had said yes!" said the mother.
Saddened to have caused such distress, the Christmas tree sighed. Its branches dropped lower and a sparkling glass pinecone fell to the floor. It shattered.
"Droopier by the minute," muttered the father. "I need some air," he said, heading to the front door.
"Go get the broom, will you?" said the mother to the son. "Oh no! Rosco, no! Bad dog. Someone get Rosco!"
Rosco, the family dog, now old and blind, had gone to investigate the noise. Both daughters lunged to scoop him up, but it was too late. He stepped on a piece of broken glass, letting out a startled yelp. In their haste, the daughters butted heads. Thud! Grabbing their heads, they began arguing about who was to blame. Rosco, meanwhile, was barking impatiently and limping around the room, leaving behind a trail of blood on the rug. The son hadn't made any movement broom-wards. In fact, he had plopped down on the couch. "Fine, I'll get it myself," said the mother. "I'll do everything myself."
The poinsettia could hardly contain her laughter. Oh, the story she could tell that night! It would be such a hoot! "All your fault," she mouthed at the Christmas tree. "All your fault."
And so, that night, the Christmas tree had already cried his heart out before the other plants had even arrived. He didn't think it could get any worse.
"Hey, hey Christmas tree," said the hanging pothos, "nice hat!"
"Ha!" agreed the snake plant. "What a stupid, stupid hat! A stupid hat for a stupid tree!"
It was getting worse. The senseless cruelty continued into the night. The poinsettia regaled the crowd with the drama of the evening. The snake plant laughed the hardest. He thought the poinsettia was pretty.
But despite it all, the Christmas tree knew he was beautiful and glittery and that his hat wasn't stupid. He may have shed some needles that night, but no more tears. And he bore the weight of his decorations proudly, without the slightest drooping.
And so, as Christmas neared, the plants grew tired of bullying the Christmas tree. Or maybe they had run out of jokes. Either way, they started meeting in the kitchen instead. Their laughter echoed down the hall, but the Christmas tree preferred being forgotten to being tormented. One night, the snake plant slipped in to the living room to make out with the poinsettia. They kissed and whispered to each other like he wasn't even there. As things grew more intimate, the poinsettia glanced cautiously in his direction.
"Ignore him. He doesn't matter. He's practically dead already. Focus on me, babes," said the snake plant.
The day after Christmas, the mother took down all the decorations and carried the tree to the curb. He was more brown than green by then and weighed hardly anything. The town's waste disposal services picked him up later that week. He had his last few conscious thoughts in the back of the truck, surrounded by the dead and dying carcasses of his fellow trees. He imagined he was back at the farm, dancing with his friends. He imagined them all complimenting each other's outfits, especially his fancy star hat. He thought of a good retort for one of the pothos' jokes. He was thirsty, so very thirsty. He died and was turned to mulch.
The next year, the mother and father decided to buy a plastic tree. It was much more practical. The house plants, deprived of their seasonal victim, turned on the spiky succulent, the only one of the three who had survived the year.
"Hey, hey Spikes," began the hanging pothos, "why didn't the cactus get invited to the birthday party?"