Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Memory

"I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself . . . I could leave the world with today in my eyes."
~from A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

I read A CHRISTMAS MEMORY by Truman Capote every year, and every year this carefully crafted story, steeped in great sensory detail and palpable atmosphere, takes on more depth and resonance. 

The setting is the rural South of the 1930s, during the Great Depression.  The story is told looking back via the perspective of a then, seven year-old boy remembering a Christmas he spent with his much older cousin, a childlike woman in her sixties who has never "seen a movie...eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home, received or sent a telegram, read anything except funny papers and the Bible, worn cosmetics, cursed, wished someone harm, told a lie on purpose, let a hungry dog go hungry." These two seemingly lost souls are largely disregarded while living in a house populated with other people (some family members), and their being lost in the shuffle forges their friendship, along with a dog named Queenie, who rounds out the trio. 

During this one recalled Christmas, the best friends pool their nickels and dimes and set out on a quest to bake 31 Fruit Cakes (complete with a trek to acquire illicit whiskey from a creepy man named Mr. Haha Jones) to send to "persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt."

This aptly titled memory story is filled with details that evoke a sense of nostalgia, loss and ultimately, longing. It is a poignant, beautifully rendered tale about the bonds of love and friendship, gift-giving and the often simple pleasures that bring joy and meaning to our lives - however fleeting.  Truman Capote has given us a great gift in crafting, A Christmas Memory.  It reminds us that nothing last forever, but if we're lucky, memory does - and that is precisely what can sustain us.

Merry Christmas to all!

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
(30th Anniversary Special Edition Hardcover)
Publication Date: 2006
Knopf Books, $17.95, 9780375837890, 49 pp

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
(A Tale Blazer Paperback)
Publication Date: 1990
Perfection Learning,  $3.35, 9780895986634, 36 pp

Note:  This story was originally published in 1956.
To order this book (paperback edition) via INDIEBOUND click HERE