Here I stand, beneath the mistletoe that dangles from the bottom of the light fixture in my foyer. Here I stand trying to get Pat to notice me and the sprig of mistletoe directly above my head. Here I stand, like Lucy Van Pelt craning over the back of Schroeder’s piano, trying to capture his attention, “Ho, ho, ho and mistletoe and presents for pretty girls.” I have wandered over to this spot beneath the mistletoe every so often over the last few weeks. Now I am wondering how long it will take my husband to notice me and, in keeping with Christmas tradition, give me the kiss to which I am entitled.
I can’t blame Pat for not noticing me right off the bat. This is the first year, in all the time we’ve been married, that I have decorated with mistletoe. I’ve wanted to do it every year, but it seems it’s one of those non-essential things that ends up getting crossed off my To Do list without getting done. For one thing, it’s not easy to find. I’ve never seen mistletoe growing in pots along with the plethora of Paper Whites, Poinsettia, and Christmas tree shaped topiaries of rosemary that grace the entrances to garden centers at this time of year. I’ve never seen it in Christmas tree lots along with natural wreaths and pine garlands, and you certainly don’t find fresh-cut bunches of it in the produce section of the local grocery store (it’s poisonous to humans if ingested). This year, however, an artificial sprig of it caught my eye as I was rushing through Target one day. There it was, smack on the floor, having been knocked from where it had been displayed among the other Christmas baubles. I picked it up and searched aisle after aisle of picked-over Christmas spangle to find the spot on the shelf where it belonged. It appeared to be the last one. $6.99 for a sprig of artificial mistletoe. Hmmm. Was it worth it? Hmmm. I’ve always wanted to hang mistletoe at Christmas. Hmmm. It was adorned with a pretty red velvet ribbon. SOLD! To the lady shopping for a new mop!
KIssing beneath the mistletoe. It’s a funny tradition if you think about it, especially once you know something about the life cycle of this species of flora.
Phoradendron, the botanical name for mistletoe, is Greek for “thief of the tree.” You see, this affable Christmas symbol of flirtation is a bit of a parasite. While Phoradendron manufactures its own chlorophyll, it is unable to do so alone. Phoradendron anchors its roots in the branches or bark of a host tree and steals the nutrients it needs to supplement its own process of photosynthesis, hence “thief of a tree.” A little stalker-like, if you ask me, but wait it gets better. A few hundred years ago, people noticed that Phoradendron seemed to flourish amid branches and twigs that happened to be covered in bird droppings. That’s right, bird poop. I’m not kidding. The translation of the common name, mistletoe, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words mistal (dung) and tas (twig). Mistaltas. So mistletoe really means dung on a twig. Nice.
Here I stand, beneath dung on a twig that dangles from the bottom of the light fixture in my foyer. Here I stand trying to get Pat to notice me and the sprig of dung on a twig beneath which I stand. Here I stand, like Lucy Van Pelt craning over the back of Schroeder’s piano, trying to capture his attention, “Ho, ho, ho and dung on a twig and presents for pretty girls.” Gee wiz. When you put it like that, it’s no wonder Pat and Schroeder aren’t inspired to dole out kisses. Who can blame them? I mean it’s not particularly romantic. Dung on a twig. Go figure.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a… Good night. Sleep tight.