Why is the setting of "A Christmas Memory" important?
The setting of the reminiscence, "A Christmas Memory," is essential to the narrative because all of Buddy's best memories are contained there.
It is in this country town of the setting where Buddy and his cousin live. Although she is an adult of some sixty years, "[S]he is still a child, " and they are the best of friends. When winter weather starts to come, Buddy's friend declares, "It's fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat." And the ritual begins. Buddy finds her hat for her, and they pull out a wicker buggy that was Buddy's when he was a baby. Using the carriage, Buddy and his cousin gather a load of windfall pecans. At home, they begin the arduous task of breaking the shells and extricating the sweet meat.
After completing this task, they must go to the store and purchase the necessary ingredients for their fruitcakes. Then, they visit Mr. Haha Jones, the local bootlegger who sells them whiskey for the cakes. When they tell him that the whiskey is for fruitcakes, he frowns. "That's no way to waste good whiskey." At home, they put together their ingredients and bake the cakes; then, they drink the last couple inches of whiskey. They mail the fruitcakes. Later, when Christmas comes, Buddy and his friend run outside where there is a wind blowing, and they fly their homemade kites.
Soon Buddy is separated from his dear friend; he is sent to military school, and for some years he receives letters from her. Finally, Buddy receives the letter he knew would one day be sent to him. It is a message that his friend is gone.
. . . walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.
Buddy reminisces about the soul mate that he had in his old cousin, a woman lacking in some areas, but never in imagination. She was an eccentric woman who provided him warmth and companionship.
The story’s setting is a morning in late November, sometime in the 1930s. We know this because the story was published in 1956 and said to have taken place “more than twenty years ago” (p. 1). The story also takes place in “a spreading old house in a country town” (p. 1). The setting is important because it is twenty years before when the writer writes it, and therefore a memory. It is also important because it is almost Christmas.
The narrator says of his older cousin that they “are each other's best friend.” She is “still a child” as she remembers her childhood, calling him Buddy.
It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather!” (p. 2)
The setting is also important because the narrator is remembering a simpler time, and a time in his life when he was happy. Now, as an adult, he remembers it fondly.