I first read Truman Capote’s story “A Christmas Memory” when I was in eighth grade, which was a while ago. My English teacher at the time told us that it had been recommended to her as a story for her to read to our class on the last day before Christmas break. She also mentioned that her husband didn’t really recommend anything by Capote. She ended up not reading it to us; however, it was not because of her husband’s opinion. She read it herself prior to reading it to our class and couldn’t keep from crying; therefore, she didn’t think it would be a very pleasant experience for our class. I don’t remember what she did read to us; however, I went to the library during Christmas break, found the story and read it. I didn’t cry.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it or that I didn’t understand why it may have moved my teacher to the point of tears. Upon re-reading it these many years later, much of it came back to me. I pondered why this story may have stayed with me for so long. I don’t have an answer, but that’s fine. The story speaks of those who see the beauty of life in the ordinary, simple, even mundane. From the time the narrator Buddy’s elderly friend wakes up on the first cold November morning with her usual “It’s fruitcake weather” to Buddy’s bittersweet walk across a military school campus, Christmas memories flood his narrative. From the hilarious – when Buddy and his friend buy whiskey for fruitcakes from Haha Jones’ “sinful” fish-fry – to the heartbreaking – when Buddy’s friend is scolded for allowing him to drink the leftover whiskey. The other elderly relatives responsible for Buddy take a backseat in the story to the elderly, but childish, relative Buddy simply refers to as “my friend”.
I noticed one difference between reading the story in eighth grade and reading it all these years later: I don’t consider the story to be as sentimental now as I did back then and had continued to consider it since. Perhaps as a kid, it was imagining my English teacher crying over a story or perhaps due to lack of maturity, I did not understand both the sweetness and the sadness of growing up and growing away from friends, family and Christmas memories. For whatever the reasons, this story made an impact on me the second time around that went beyond mere sentiment.
My favorite part of the story came when Buddy and his friend flew their traditional Christmas gifts to each other: kites. His friend seems to see the whole world during their outing:
“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. That things as they are…just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.”