My husband, Ridgely, got an invitation from his old school, Ransom School in Miami, to come to a reading by his old English teacher, Dan Bowden, a reading of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” Ridgely had loved Dan Bowden (who doesn’t have at least one teacher that was a real stand-out in one’s school years?). I didn’t want him to drive down by himself, so I offered to go with him. On the way down, he told me that as Mr. Bowden was now in his mid 80’s, we probably wouldn’t be able to hear a word. Well, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Dan Bowden read the story with a magnificent deep voice and lots of expression. Old time, depression-era Alabama came alive for me, and I could imagine all those school boys sitting mesmerized in a hot drowsy classroom in South Florida, having old time, depression-era Alabama come alive for them too. What a wonderful teacher he must have been.
Dan Bowden in earlier days at The Ransom School
That night really was the beginning of the Christmas Season for me—Mr. Bowden was so pleased that Ridgely had driven all the way down there for him. He recognized him across the large room and called out his name. “Ridgely Foster, I know that’s you.”
So it was a nice moment for Mr. Bowden and a nice moment for Ridgely who, after all, hadn't been in a classroom for over half a century. And because I loved the story so much as he read it, the next day I went right over to the Four Arts Library and got out the first four Truman Capote books I saw. I told the librarian about the reading and how much we had loved it, and he said, “Truman Capote. A writer whose every word is important.” And so it is that I want you to get “A Christmas Memory”
And also “The Thanksgiving Visitor”
Both of these stories really are telling about Truman Capote’s childhood years he spent with relatives in Alabama, and also show the wonderful depths of the love and affection between himself and his aunt. They are deeply Southern which brings home to one all the more the talent that Capote had in depicting both those days and his very changed life afterwards.
So you will also have to read The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany's, both really good books. Beautifully written, wonderful stories, I had read them when I was in my twenties, but had forgotten how simply perfect they were.
I didn’t do so well on my second trip. I have always found In Cold Blood to be very depressing (although, in its way, amazing) and I didn’t like Answered Prayers, but I still have Other Voices, Other Rooms to look forward to, the book that made him the darling of the literary world (would that he had stayed the darling of that world, and not Le Monde Haute which basically, through his own fault, destroyed him.) But it was all due to the wonderful Christmas present of the reading by Mr. Bowden; may he read on forever.
The second Christmas story came to my attention because of a beautiful deep green, sweet smelling Christmas wreath I received from my good friends, Bobby and Jane Grace. It came from Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro, Maine, and included in the box were two jars of their own blueberry jam.
Now if you have the good fortune, as I do, to have a house in Maine or even just to live there some of the time, there are two things you don’t eat from anywhere else—lobster and blueberries. My beautiful woods, most of the forty acres of them, are covered with blueberry bushes, the low back-breaking-picking kind, and they are at their peak when the children first get to Maine, so one of their chores is to pick. Isabel is a master picker, followed by Allegra, and so we have blueberry pancakes and blueberry pies, but jam—yow! It takes so many, many of those tiny berries to make jam.
So I Googled Darthia Farm and found out that it is one of Maine’s many wonderful organic farms which sell their wares at their own stands at the different green markets. They turned out to be the nicest people as you can see by their pictures
The farm was centered around this lovely little barn
Which sadly, a year ago, burned down with the horses and the sheep and the poultry all inside. This is a tragedy beyond reckoning. Not only the horror of their terrifying deaths for the animals, but the loss of their main source of livelihood for these wonderful people. Instantly the people of that section of Maine fell into battle-formation, including the newspapers, and today, the barn is rebuilt and the farm is on its way again. You can help, too, by going to their web site (Google Darthia Farm Organic Produce) or by writing them or going there at 51 Darthia Farm Road, Gouldsboro, ME 04607 or calling them at (207)963-2770 and buying your blueberry jam and other things from people who really care and who need you. It will be a wonderful Christmas present for them—and for you.
Because Tuesday is Christmas and the week following is a holiday for all in my office, we will not be posting again until into 2013, so Marry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. XOXOXOXOX LETA