As friends, what do Buddy and his cousin give each other, and what do they receive in return in "A Christmas Memory"?
Both Buddy and his cousin "march to the beat of a different drummer" as Henry David Thoreau expresses those who are different from the "mass of men." But, because they have their oddity in common, they forge a distinct and meaningful friendship with one another.
Since his cousin, who is in her sixties and has never experienced much of life, is "still a child," Buddy brings to her the youth and the heart of a child to which she can relate. Both social outcasts--Buddy's cousin is somewhat estranged from the relatives who care for her, and Buddy is sent to relatives for extended periods--they fashion a world of their own design and delight in it. At Christmastime, they excitedly begin their project of making fruitcakes by taking a dilapidated wicker baby carriage and collecting "a heaping buggyload of windfall pecans." Then, they must have some money with which to buy whisky from a bootlegger named HaHaJones; after obtaining this, they make their fruitcakes for "friends" who are really strangers. Buddy asks himself,
Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends?
Perhaps, Buddy's cousin feels that they have extended themselves beyond their small world in the sense of Christian love for others. For, although she is a simple woman, she shares with Buddy an expansive imagination that looks beyond the mundane. One day, for instance, after they fashion kites and lie on their backs watching these kites fly in the sky, Buddy's cousin speaks to his soul, too, when she wonders if "things as they are" are not really evidence of the presence of that which is beyond our ken--"the Lord" as she expresses this thought.