capote’s christmas kite

capotechristmasIf you were a fleck of lint fallen from Santa’s beard at our house this morning, you would have witnessed about an hour of mayhem around 6 AM settle into quiet and coffee and books.  Although this story I share with you today was not one from Santa’s sack, it’s what I began reading when everyone else picked up their titles.  I love Capote’s A Christmas Memory and found this lovely version in our local independent bookshop.  I wrapped it up with my biggest love’s Christmas Eve pajamas and gave her little sister an equally charming copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  I hope you’re reading something you love today!  And eating oranges in the grass underneath a flying kite.

 

Buddy are you awake?  It is my friend, calling from her room, which is next to mine; and in an instant later she is sitting on my bed holding a candle.  Well I can’t sleep a hoot, she declares.  My mind’s jumping like a jack rabbit.  Buddy, do you think Mrs. Roosevelt will serve our cake at dinner?  We huddle in the bed, she squeezes my hand I-love-you.

Seems like your hand used to be much smaller.  I guess I hate to see you grow up.  When you’re grown up, will we still be friends?  I say always.  But I feel so bad, Buddy.  I wanted so bad to give you a bike.  I tried to sell my cameo Papa gave me.  Buddy —  she hesitates, as though embarrassed — I made you another kite.  Then I confess I made her one, too; and we laugh.  The candle burns too short to hold.  Out it goes, exposing the starlight, the stars spinning at the window like a visible caroling that slowly, slowly daybreak silences.  Possibly we doze; but the beginnings of dawn splash us like cold water: we’re up, wide-eyed and wandering while we wait for others to waken.  Quite deliberately my friend drops a kettle on the kitchen floor.  I tap-dance in front of closed doors.  One by one the household emerges, looking as though they’d like to kill us both; but it’s Christmas, so they can’t.  First, a gorgeous breakfast; just everything you could imagine — from flapjacks and fried squirrel to hominy grits and honey-in-the-comb.  Which puts everyone in a good humor except my friend and I.  Frankly, we’re so impatient to get at the presents we can’t eat a mouthful.

Well, I’m disappointed.  Who wouldn’t be?  With socks, a Sunday school shirt, some handkerchiefs, a hand-me-down sweater and a year’s subscription to a religious magazine for children.  The Little Shepherd.  It makes me boil.  It really does.

My friend has a better haul.  A sack of Satsumas, that’s her best present.  She is proudest, however, of a white wool shawl knitted by her married sister.  But she says her favorite gift is the kite I built her.  And it is very beautiful, though not as beautiful as the one she made me, which is blue and scattered with gold and green good conduct stars; moreover, my name is printed on it, Buddy.

Buddy the wind is blowing.

The wind is blowing, and nothing will do till we’ve run to a pasture below the house where Queenie has scooted to bury her bone (and where, a winter hence, Queenie will be buried, too).  There, plunging through the healthy waist-high grass, we unreel our kites, feel them twitching at the string like sky fish as they swim into the wind.  Satisfied, sun-warmed, we sprawl in the grass and peel Satsumas and watch our kites cavort.  Soon I forget the socks and hand-me-down sweater.  I’m as happy as if we’d already won the fifty-thousand dollar Grand Prize in that coffee-naming contest.

My, how foolish I am! my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven.  You know what I’ve always thought? she asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond.  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  — and 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.

an excerpt from Truman Capote’s short story “A Christmas Memory” available from Indie Bound via the link below.

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christmas given away, again

conservatorybutterfly121713Forgive me, but I thought along with the boxes of holiday decorations, the blinking lawn ornaments and last year’s fruitcakes I might also drag out and dust off my favorite Two or Three Little Birds advent post from last year, too.  My sentiments remain the same, and well, I thought it was pretty good then, so why not put some fresh tinsel on it and share the joy all over again.  Here’s the tinsel to dress it up a bit, fresh thoughts gathered today from an inspiring trip to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park:

Rather than dashing out to the the mall for last minute gifts on this, the last day before my little loves kick into their Christmas vacation schedule.  Instead of spending the day addressing cards and wrapping the gifts that remain in paper bags on my bedroom floor.  Today I took a long drive.  I walked through a Victorian-era glass paned Conservatory of Flowers, among large-leaved palms and orchids and ferns speckled with water.  I contemplated writing some Christmas notes from a park bench there, but that thought quickly gave way to butterflies and moss, was drowned out by sounds of trickling water and bloom.  You know, bloom can be noisy if you’re listening for it.   Are you listening for it?  It’s that moment when someone smiles at something you’ve said.  It’s the way the clouds looked tonight under the full moon or out across the ocean at sunset as I made my way home, the long and slow and winding more beautiful way home with a stop along the way for Starbuck’s and a chocolate chip cookie.  It’s the hopeful promise of peace, of Christmas given away.

 

poem for sharing, again: [let me not wrap]

Posted on December 16, 2012

Let me not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal, keep Christmas.
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
Let me give Christmas away, unwrapped, by exuberant armfuls.
Let me share, dance, live Christmas unpretentiously, merrily,
responsibly with overflowing hands, tireless steps and sparkling eyes.
Christmas given away will stay fresh—even until it comes again.

— Linda Felver via my soul in silence waits

 

This past week I sent out my Christmas cards.  You know, those stylish pre-printed postcards with pictures of my kids that I usually stuff in the envelope, slap an address label on and shove in the mail on my way somewhere else?  Yeah, those things.  Well this year I was overcome with something I can’t quite describe and decided to heck with the address labels.  I bought a pretty silver pen and hand wrote all the names and addresses on the envelopes.  I even tried to be somewhat fancy with my lettering, but I admit I am out of practice with the pen.  And as I slid the cards inside, I even wrote a personal note to my favorite people.  Imagine that! A real note!  Not just a signature.  I kind of feel more loving and friendly after it all, as if I actually gave a little bit of Christmas away.

For so many years these cards have been sent out, and each year, it seems they get more and more impersonal.  This year the man I keep and I got two of the same preprinted, pre-addressed and stamped cards, and I think it was due to a glitch at the online retailer our friends had ordered them from.  You see, not only can you have them custom design your card and print your return address on the envelopes, you can even upload your address book and have them put the labels on and mail them for you.  You don’t even have to put so much as a fingerprint on the cards or get a single paper cut on your tongue before they’re spit out, sealed, stamped, and sent off to your most beloved friends and family just 24 hours after you clicked ‘order now.’  Drive thru greetings for everyone!

Don’t get me wrong here.  I appreciate the thought put into the selection of the card and love the photos, especially when they are candid and silly.  But there’s also something missing if we never have to stop long enough to notice the names on the envelopes, don’t you think?

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