After 20 years in our family, my daughter has more or less resigned herself to the idea that her father is an oddball. Even so, she was surprised to come home from college for Easter and find a poinsettia on the dining room table as our holiday centerpiece.
I wasn’t trying to be cute or contrarian by having a yuletide plant around last Sunday instead of a nice Easter lily. The poinsettia is still in great shape since it arrived as a gift last December, becoming such a part of the household that I hardly think of it at all. It has thrived on neglect.
Christmas continues to cling to our house in other small ways, even with the arrival of spring. Vacuuming the car trunk last week before a road trip, I gathered dozens of needles from the pine we’d brought home from the tree lot more than three months ago. I emptied the needles into the yard, a small gift to birds building their nests. Tidying the house for Easter, I stubbed my toe on a canvas sack of books — the ones I’d gotten for Christmas, all still unread.
Among the neglected volumes: “Reporting Always,” a new collection of pieces from The New Yorker’s Lillian Ross; “And Yet,” an assortment of essays by the late Christopher Hitchens; and “All the Light We Cannot See,” the acclaimed novel by Anthony Doerr.
Despite the backlog, new books still cross our threshold, adding to the surplus.
Maybe Susan Hill had the right idea when she decided not to get any new books for a year and instead read the ones she already had, an experience she recorded in a charming memoir, “Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home.”
“A book which is left on the shelf is a dead thing but it is also a chrysalis, an inanimate object packed with the potential to burst into new life,” Hill tells readers. “Wandering through the house … looking for one elusive book, my eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored here, neglected or ignored.”
What Hill is arguing for, in broader sense, is a small pause in the doing and getting of the year, a time to connect with the abundance of what we already have.
Easter brought a measure of that reflection this year, as an afternoon rain hemmed us within the folds of family, and we stayed at home, catching up on the Sunday paper, watching movies, even dipping into those books that once rested beneath a Christmas tree.
It’s time to bring the poinsettia outside, where with any luck it might last until next Christmas. Out in the yard, there’s a lot more to do — pruning and painting and planting, a round of chores that will leave little time for the reading hammock.
So I’ll revisit the books I got for Christmas when I always do — some day in summer, from a folding chair beside the ocean.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter @Danny_Heitman.