In a season too often focused the latest toy or gadget, Capote’s lightly fictionalized tale of his own childhood on a Depression-era Alabama farm is a powerful reminder that the greatest Christmas gift of all is simple human affection. Capote’s story recounts the deep friendship between the young Buddy and Sook, a childlike older cousin who becomes his surrogate caregiver. The story unfolds in Capote’s deeply poetical style, and within this heart-tugging tale of Buddy and Sook’s inventive efforts to make a memorable Christmas in a hardscrabble household, there’s plenty of humor, too. Sook’s search for whiskey to season her fruitcake is, in Capote’s telling, a jewel in itself. The opening of “A Christmas Memory” starts the holidays as decisively for me as each year’s first strains of “Jingle Bells”:
"Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar."
You can find “A Christmas Memory” in a Modern Library edition of Capote’s collected holiday tales: “A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, & The Thanksgiving Visitor.”