I have yet to see the movie “Capote,” but all the hype surrounding it made me curious to see what he had as a writer. I picked up his short story, "A Christmas Memory," and I was delighted to experience his lyricism in describing scenes and events, and I was stunned to come across a paragraph that expressed a great truth, in fact, so on the mark that it echoed passages from Jesus’ Course in Miracles.
The narrator, Buddy, is seven years old at the time of the story, but he is looking back on it some twenty years later. He describes his loving friendship with his cousin, a woman in her late 60’s, as they prepare for Christmas in the south.
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.
A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"
They scrimp all year, saving up pennies at a time, to make the thirty fruitcakes. He tells of gathering the ingredients, including buying whiskey from a scary Indian, making the cakes, distributing them, sharing the whiskey afterwards, two ounces each, decorating the house, and then going deep into the woods for the perfect Christmas tree, making each other special gifts: kites, and then flying them on Christmas Day.
"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.
And now, here is the stunning paragraph.
"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'11 wager it never happens. I'11 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."
This from a woman who read only the funny papers and the Bible.
She discovers that it is always Heaven on earth, if you look through the eyes of Christ. She experiences a holy instant, and in that moment, things forever change for her, and it is implied for Buddy, too.
And now, look at the juxtaposition of lines from this paragraph and passages from A Course in Miracles.
"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
Is it not a happy discovery to find that you can escape?
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.
Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light
are merely covering their eyes. The light
is in them now. Enlightenment is but
a recognition, not a change at all. W-p1.188.1:1-4
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.
This light can not be lost. Why wait to find
it in the future, or believe it has
been lost already, or was never there? W-p1.188.2:1,2
But I'11 wager it never happens. I'11 wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.
The peace of God is shining in you now,
and from your heart extends around the world.
It pauses to caress each living thing,
and leaves a blessing with it that remains
forever and forever. W-p1.188.3:1,2
That things as they are"
Let all things be exactly as they are. Lesson 268, Title
—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."
The shining in your mind reminds the world
of what it has forgotten, and the world
restores the memory to you as well. W-p1.188.4:1
The shining in his friend’s mind reminded Buddy of what he had forgotten, in that moment as a seven-year old, and now at twenty-seven as he looks back. He shared her holy instant, the restoration of the memory. This accounts for his lyricism. His lyrical passages stop to caress each living thing.
The kitchen is growing dark. Dusk turns the window into a mirror: our reflections mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight.
Now a nude December fig branch grates against the window. The kitchen is empty, the cakes are gone; yesterday we carted the last of them to the post office, where the cost of stamps turned our purse inside out. We're broke. That rather depresses me, but my friend insists on celebrating—with two inches of whiskey left in Haha's bottle. Queenie has a spoonful in a bowl of coffee (she likes her coffee chicory-flavored and strong). The rest we divide between a pair of jelly glasses. We're both quite awed at the prospect of drinking straight whiskey; the taste of it brings screwedup expressions and sour shudders. But by and by we begin to sing, the two of us singing different songs simultaneously. I don't know the words to mine, just: Come on along, come on along, to the dark-town strutters' ball. But I can dance: that's what I mean to be, a tap dancer in the movies. My dancing shadow rollicks on the walls; our voices rock the chinaware; we giggle: as if unseen hands were tickling us. Queenie rolls on her back, her paws plow the air, something like a grin stretches her black lips. Inside myself, I feel warm and sparky as those crumbling logs, carefree as the wind in the chimney. My friend waltzes round the stove, the hem of her poor calico skirt pinched between her fingers as though it were a party dress: Show me the way to go home, she sings, her tennis shoes squeaking on the floor. Show me the way to go home.
And, now, Dear Reader, we are lit up, too, looking through the eyes of Christ and experiencing the peace of God as we gaze into the precious things surrounding us, Heaven on earth.
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