Close Family or Close to Being Family? A Christmas Answer
In my growing up years, Christmas dinner at our house in Columbus, Georgia, was a swap-off arrangement between my stepmother and Aunt Ellinor, who lived in Americus. My aunt prepared the Thanksgiving meal for our family and my stepmother prepared the Christmas dinner. The cast of characters were, for several years, the same: my stepmother, father, brother, Aunt Ellinor, Hazel, Miss Lou Belle, and me. Strictly speaking, Hazel and Miss Lou Belle were not kin but close friends.
Hazel lived with Aunt Ellinor and was her companion, cook, and housekeeper. Miss Lou Belle was a seamstress who sewed hats at my aunt's millinery shop. Hazel was a great friend to me when I visited my aunt, straight talking and direct, insistent that I call her "Hazel" though she was many times my age, plus a really determined Canasta player. Miss Lou Belle was a sweet lady with a lovely voice and a great friend to my aunt. I always looked forward to seeing them. What goes better than good companionship, good food, and good conversation at Christmas time?
What about all of the above in mid-June? Somehow when I read a scene from Carson McCullers', The Member of the Wedding, I pick up those Christmas-time feelings. Berenice the cook, Frankie the twelve-year-old girl, and John Henry, Frankie's six-year-old cousin, live through hot June days, playing cards in the kitchen, while Frankie expounds on her fears, hopes, and dreams. Berenice, a black woman, provides the two white children with good food, straight talk, understanding, and love.
What about mid-June in Meet Me on the Paisley Roof? Three teenage boys, Trussell, Ronnie, and Cassidy, for years have launched their nocturnal adventures as an antidote to the bleak daytime reality of their family lives. When the group is faced with a possible breakup and end of their time together, Ronnie and Cassidy opt to play one big final joke, which they dub a "miracle," on Trussell. When the ruse succeeds, Trussell complains to his girlfriend Ellen about the fake "miracle." She sees something beside a joke, a farewell gift. "Their gift to you, Trussell, was love. You laughed with them. Your gift to them was love. There's the miracle."
Southern writers in particular often address the problem of dysfunctional family life. It is as though they show us what healthy family relationships are not rather than what they are. Yet, in a strange twist, their characters find others to bond with, not through kinship, but through understanding and love. A second family unit develops, either as a replacement of or an important addition to the primary family. Arguably, one may assert that this points to a spiritual realization that we are all family. Perhaps the Christmas season can heighten our awareness of and thoughts about this amazing possibility.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE BOOK
Trussell Jones has a problem. He is crazy in love with a beautiful girl named Ellen. The problem? He has no car. His stepmother, who believes that she is spiritually connected to Queen Victoria, won't let him drive. Furthermore, she is afraid Trussell is trying to kill her. Not to be overlooked is the fact that Trussell is being pursued by a gang of armed redneck motorcycle hoods, while his neighbors are preoccupied with changing visions of St. Francis. Just another heartwarming tale of a boy in love with a girl? Hardly.
This delightfully quixotic coming-of-age story, set in Columbus, Georgia in the 1950s, truly has something to shock and beguile even the most jaded reader. Its irreverent protagonist will take you on a road trip of hits, near misses, twists, and sudden turns that ll set you on your ear. You ll be unable to put the book down, until you reach its charming yet totally unpredictable conclusion.
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