A Memory of A Christmas Memory
Throughout my life, books have profoundly been a part of my journey, my experiences and who I’ve become.
One particularly special one, is Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. First, it was so meaningful to me as a child. Now, as an adult, it continues to be in my life - its message evolving and fitting into the narrow and painful spots or moments of happiness I continue to encounter as I age.
Each Christmas season, my mom and dad would watch or read A Christmas Memory with me. The narrative is sparkling, simple, beautiful and never fails to strike a cord no matter how many times I read it or hear it.
In the TV show, Capote narrates his short story to the actors. It brings that unique realism to the experience, and allows the reader to see, hear and feel the story with such intimate depth.
My family did not have much as I was growing up. Hearing Capote’s simple traditions at the holidays, where he most treasured not the trappings and gifts but the friendship of his buddy, was always comforting to me. It continues to be.
A Christmas Memory is still a holiday touchstone for me. It’s lines resound throughout my days all year long, though. Especially this year, 2019.
This year, my dad moved from the old farmhouse and acres and acres of field and trees where I was raised. It broke his heart to leave the rural land - where he lived alone for so long now, but was never lonely with the echoes of our childhood there, his memories of cutting wood and keeping the fire going, cooking on the wood stove in the kitchen, and the many cats and dogs - beloved such as Capote’s pup was - that passed through our doors, hearts and lives there. But it was time to downsize, to make things more simple, to prioritize health and finances. For both of us. Dad moved to town.
I pulled out my copy of A Christmas Memory in those days of moving him and on some other level - moving our lives...forward. On. Away.
It is in these simple memories Capote writes about that I find the most ease at these busy holidays that overwhelm my mind and senses. And in 2019, the overwhelming sense of grief and loss of home and loved ones. Those simple memories like Capote’s: Trips to the trees to pick ripe nuts or fruit, a walk through a pine grove with the dog - searching for the best tree, baking in the kitchen, dancing with your friend.
It wrenched my heart to see the land go, too. I’ve felt untethered ever since, a kite without a string or a weight to rein it in. Like Capote’s memory, mine are not grand or fancy. They are running through golden autumn fields with my dog at my side, cuddling with a cat on the porch watching the rain, the heavy snow in the trees during a long winter walk, the monarchs each summer, the ponds filling each spring, the migrating birds and all the wildlife that changed with the seasons. It’s all just memories now.
Dad reached out to me in recent weeks, reminding me that one day we’ll be there again. On that land, in those fields, “…two kites hurrying towards heaven,” as Capote said.
“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 coloured glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a 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' - her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone - 'just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.” -Truman Capote