As they finish baking the cakes, Buddy's cousin begins to cry. Why does Buddy's cousin spend the evening in tears in "A Christmas Memory"?
Buddy and his cousin's evening of fun is spoiled when two relatives (unnamed and not described in any detail) scold her for giving him whiskey, and frighten her with their talk of sin and religion. Buddy goes to his cousin where she lies in bed crying, and tries to cheer her up and get her to stop crying. He tells her she is "too old for that" and tickles her feet. She says she is crying because "I am too old. Old and funny." Buddy knows she is feeling sad and he also knows how different she is from other people, and how out of place she feels compared to their relatives. In relating these memories, we know that Buddy had a fairly sophisticated understanding of the situation, perhaps more sophisticated than his cousin. He understands they are both outsiders, and that is why they get along so well, but he can see why this makes his cousin sad. He succeeds in cheering her up by saying:
"Not funny. Fun. More fun than anybody. Listen. If you don't stop crying you'll be so tired tomorrow we can't go cut a tree."
Buddy's bringing up the tree and their continued celebration of their Christmas traditions gets her excited and she stops crying, saying she knows where to find a pretty tree the next day, and holly. It reminds her of her own childhood and getting a tree with her father. She ends up saying "Well, now: I can't wait for morning." The fact that his cousin's own Christmas memory is related within this memoir makes this story more layered and rich, underscoring the importance of tradition and memory in their lives, even in later years when the two drift apart.
After baking the fruitcakes, which include the ingredient of whiskey, Buddy and his cousin enjoy the last of the whiskey themselves. They have a pleasant evening in the kitchen, laughing and dancing and singing.
However, the other memebers of the family come in and realize that Buddy's cousin has given him - a child - alcohol. Instead of evaluating the situation, instead of speaking with this member of their family, the other adults attack her. They tell her that she is a disgrace and has behaved ridiculously. This is what puts Buddy's cousin in tears. The other adults do not treat her with equality or fairness. They treat her as is she is a child, even going so far as to scold her.