A Christmas Memory

It is curious that as children, humans have the ability to observe and remember details of specific situations and instances yet lack the ability to describe them. Truman Capote, as a grown man, took advantage of his vivid memories and composed the short work, “A Christmas Memory.” The story begins in late November, a month symbolic of all the years gone by that Capote could remember beginning preparations for Christmas fruitcakes. The year he has chosen, though, is that of the last Christmas three friends spend together. A boy of seven, Capote has but two friends: his “sixty-something” year old distant cousin and a loyal, happy pooch named Buddy. Although the age difference between the cousins is great, it is clear that the two are almost on the same level of intelligence. His old cousin is not ignorant or innocent by choice, rather, because of her frail condition she has been brushed off by adults and has never outgrown her childish ways. As the narrator, Capote recounts memories of good times; the times before his family members decided that home was not where he belonged. Overall, the story is bittersweet because there is joy to be found in the simplicity of the three friends happiness. However, after this specific Christmas, Capote is forced to move out of his house and to leave his innocence behind. The story is not purely self-serving because Capote uses this piece not only to revisit his memories of happier times, but to also evoke the memories of the readers. The theme of a loss of childhood innocence is one that many people can relate to, as well. However, Capote composed this piece using the observant eye of a youth juxtaposed against wisdom only gained with age. An uncommon usage of colons is employed throughout his work to present different areas of text. Although mostly used for introducing lists or great excerpts of quotes, Capote uses colons for lists as well as for dividing lines of text to break the monotony. Even more so, they are used as directions for the reader to understand peoples movements and the exact details of the story. For instance, at one point Capote writes: “Enter: two relatives. Very angry.” It is as if the story is a play and he is the director telling the reader how to interpret the scenes. Capotes description of things is also different from the typical persons description. For example, to the laymen, the sun is a big, bright, shiny ball of fire. To Capote, the sun rises “round as orange and orange as hot weather moons, balancing on the horizon, burnishing the silvered winter woods.” His word choice elicits more than just a visual sense of what he is describing; they entice all the senses to jump into his memory. It is distressing that the friends lack any real interaction with the others in the household other than to be scolded. The reader feels as if perhaps the neglected ones should be pitied. Yet, it is comforting that they find consolation in each other and can appreciate each moment for its beauty. In the end, Capote recalls his friend looking upon the land in front of them and back over time and understanding, in a very mature manner, the profoundness of the world. With a few words, an elderly lady who has not ventured outside her hometown reveals a secret of life few ever realize. The kites that they give each other each year represent a life of simple pleasures, when things were easier in Capotes world. This is why, in the end, Capote walks across the campus of his school remembering days gone by, longing for the past, and searching for, again, the simpler things in life and the meaning in a life void of happiness.