It's time again to set aside a moment for The Thanksgiving Visitor.
The Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote, in A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor (New York : The Modern Library, 1996; it is also included in The Complete Stories of Truman Capote)
"...a custody battle that, for involved reasons, had left me stranded in this somewhat eccentric Alabama household. Not that I was unhappy there, indeed, moments of those years turned out to be the happiest part of an otherwise difficult childhood, mainly because the youngest of the cousins, a woman in her sixties, became my first friend." -- from The Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote
Truman Capote spent the happiest years of his childhood in Monroeville, Alabama, living with a trio of elderly aunts and an uncle. The Grass Harp, A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor look back on those years.
The Thanksgiving Visitor, a touching story of love and kindness, can easily be read between Thanksgiving preparations. Capote takes readers back to 1932. The Depression has hit Alabama, but Buddy, a nickname bestowed on him by Miss Sook, lives comfortably "in a high-ceilinged old country house situated where the town ended and the farms and forests began." Two of his aunts operate " a dry-goods store and several other business ventures." Uncle B owns "a number of cotton farms scattered around the countryside...." But, it is Miss Sook, his "sensitive shy-lady fern" aunt who becomes Buddy's "best friend." "Except for the hours I spent at school," Capote recalls, "the three of us, me and old Queenie, our feisty little rat terrier, and Miss Sook, as everyone called my friend, were almost always together." It is Miss Sook who helps Buddy with his homework, takes him on excursions, and calms him during his "nightmare upheavals."
The "nightmare upheavals" mostly revolve around Buddy's schoolmate, "Odd Henderson," twelve-years old, but in the same second grade class as Buddy. Odd "torments" Buddy. "It would take a page in small print to list the imaginative punishments Odd inflicted, but what I resented most and suffered most was the sense of dour expectations he induced." It is only when Buddy regains "the peace of the warm kitchen, where Queenie might be gnawing on an old dug-up bone and my friend puttering with a piecrust, that the weight of Odd Henderson would blessedly slide from my shoulders." Miss Sook knows what is troubling the young Buddy and, unable "to acknowledge that any human could be as bad as I made him out," thinks of a plan to bring the boys together, to encourage them "to know each other a little." With Thanksgiving a week away, she insists that Buddy invite Odd Henderson "here for Thanksgiving."
What happens in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the "lively" day itself, and the aftermath complete the story. When "the Thanksgiving visitor" joins the warm family gathering, jealousy and revenge lead Buddy and readers to an important lesson, one worth remembering each year.
"A lively day, that Thanksgiving. Lively with on-and-off showers and abrupt sky clearings accompanied by thrusts of raw sun and sudden bandit winds snatching autumns leftover leaves." -- from The Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote
Monroeville, Alabama is proud of its literary heritage. Two other writers, besides Truman Capote, have ties with Monroeville, "the Literary Capital of Alabama." Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama, is a native of Monroeville, as is Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. The town in To Kill a Mockingbird is based on Monroeville, while Lee's childhood friend, Truman Capote, inspired the character, Dill. Visit Monroeville's website for information.
"Now listen to me Buddy: there is only one unpardonable sin -- deliberate cruelty." -- from The Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote