Sunday, September 8, 2013

Buddy, Ol' Friend Ol' Pal O' Mine!

My daughter and her husband thought long and hard about what to name their son.  They had it figured out before he was born, as so many people do.  We think it's a great name.  Not too common, not hybridized and made-up, all three names together a bit stately and bequeathed. 
This child has been called numerous loving little pet-names over the months, and one that keeps coming out of my mouth is "Buddy."  It began as buddy in the generic "you betcha, buddy" noun sort of way, but the other day it felt like I was calling him Buddy as if it were his name.  At that moment, a very warm feeling came with the words and I remembered a beloved and long time favorite story I keep returning to year after year for more years than my grandson has hairs on his head.  It's Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," which has had me entralled since my first reading decades ago. 
I love the story, I love the way it is written, I love the way it was made into a television special, and I take the whole thing very personally.  As a matter of fact, I'll be right back.  I'm going to go read it right now.
Buddy is the seven-year old narrator and his friend (distant cousin with whom he lives) is sixty-something.  When he refers to her, he names her "My friend."  

We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was

formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she

was still a child. She is still a child.

If you haven't read this story by now, you probably won't, (more's the pity,) so I'm not going to worry that I might spoil the achingly poignant ending by quoting it here, which I'm doing to just give an example of the writing and the feelings it evokes. 

"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."


...a morning arrives in November, a leafless

birdless coming of winter morning, when she cannot rouse herself to

exclaim: "Oh my, it's fruitcake weather! "

And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely

confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing

from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a

broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this

particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to

see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.

And so, now you know, when I'm calling my little-friend-and-grandson Buddy, I'm calling him that in memory, not only of this story, but also of a time when this story came to my attention and what it did to my life then, what it does to me now. 
I have a feeling that many of my subsequent posts are going to be about Buddy and me or Buddy and his mother or Buddy and his mother and me.  Who knows, we might even gather our own pecans someday and make fruitcakes together.

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