Buddy's best friend is a cousin who is middle-aged, as she is described as being "sixty-something" with "shorn white hair." Buddy also says she is "small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched." Her face is described as "remarkable" and "delicate."
She is somewhat childlike in her behavior, and so the two bond closely when Buddy is living with relatives. The other adults in the household are described in vague and somewhat menacing terms, and so the emphasis in the story is on Buddy and his friend, whose adventures during a few weeks before Christmas are described in detail. The pair seem to form a kind of faction against the other adults who, Buddy says, "have power over us, and frequently make us cry," but they manage to live very happily in the world his cousin lovingly maintains for them, with many of their activities revolving around food.
Indeed, the main event of the story is the making of holiday fruitcakes, including the gathering of pecans and the buying of ingredients. Buddy's cousin proves herself to be very resourceful, for even though they are very poor, she finds a way to purchase and acquire the necessary ingredients to make many cakes and mail them to friends, relatives and even strangers.
Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on windowsills and shelves.
Who are they for?
Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt. Like the Reverend and Mrs. J. C. Lucey, Baptist missionaries to Borneo who lectured here last winter.
We see in this urge to share with so many people Buddy's cousin's curiosity about people, and her tremendous generosity, as well as her childlike naivete in assuming the President might receive her gift.
We also know Buddy's friend is an animal lover and treats her dog Queen almost like a person. At the end of the story, when Buddy has moved away, his cousin describes Queen's death in a letter to him:
("Buddy dear," she writes in her wild hard-to-read script, "yesterday Jim Macy's horse kicked Queenie bad. Be thankful she didn't feel much. I wrapped her in a Fine Linen sheet and rode her in the buggy down to Simpson's pasture where she can be with all her Bones....").
The story, "A Christmas Memory" chronicles the life of a young boy named Buddy and his best friend, who is also his cousin. His cousin is nameless in the story. He is very outgoing, but immature. The two friends live with other relatives who are very strict and seem to dictate their lives. The family is extremely poor, but Buddy saves his money for Christmas every year. The cousin is a drinker and convinces Buddy to help him drink a bottle of whiskey, which leads to the two friends becoming intoxicated. Buddy's friend convinces Buddy to go to a faraway place to chop down a tree that the two can use for a Christmas tree. Buddy becomes extremely upset when he receives mediocre gifts, but his friend receives better gifts. However, the two friends exchange kites with one another and proceed to fly the kites and share the gifts that Buddy's friend had received. During the pair's last Christmas together, Buddy is sent away to military school, but his friend tries to remain in contact with Buddy despite her dementia. Unfortunately, she eventually forgets her friend and ends up passing away.