In my search for holiday reading I came across two short stories written by Truman Capote that were really fictionalized episdes from his childhood in rural Alabama. Today I read both of them – and found a bonus third holiday short story.
Both “A Christmas Memory” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor” are based on Capote’s rural Alabana childhod. His parents divorced and young Truman stayed with adult cousins for a few years, during which time he was close to his 60-ish cousin Miss Sook Faulk, a fey woman with some deformity due to a prolonged childhood illness. Sook is narrator Buddy’s (Capote’s) best friend.
In “A Christmas Memory,” Sook is never named; she is just “my friend.” In this dreamlike memory of Christmas the reader is included in holiday baking, procurement of a Christmas tree and its homemade decorations, and making gifts for family members. It’s warm and lyrical, suitable to read aloud to the family, although there may be some things about Santa in there that you don’t necessarily want your younger children to know just yet and there is also a scene in which Sook and Budddy get tipsy. Really, this is the story of Buddy and his best friend. The rest of the world is outside and not important.
“The Thanksgiving Visitor” gives Sook a name. We learn more about Buddy’s other cousins and extended family at Thanksgiving; one of the family’s Thanksgiving guests happens to be the bully who’s been tormenting Buddy every day by rubbing burrs in his hair, and as I read it I imagined the betrayal I would have felt if my mother had invited my worst childhood enemy to sit at our holiday table.
The collection in which both of these stories are included is called The Complete Stories of Truman Capote, and it includes one more of Truman’s childhood Christmas memories – this story, called “One Christmas,” is not so cozy. Truman’s father insists that Truman visit him for Christmas in New Orleans, and the experience is a difficult one for the little boy. This heartbreaking story is perhaps not a good choice to share with the kids.