Horrors! Pie pans in the tree!

When I was in high school, lo, these many years ago, my mother had the bright idea to decorate one of our trees at Christmas with tin pie pans. Mind you, this was an outdoor tree and every car on our busy street would pass this … decoration.

I was horrified. It was so Truman Capote.

Momma had a friend who lived fairly close by–on a street even more busy than ours–who also hung pie pans in her front yard. I’m sure this was the source of her inspiration.

The same year my mother decorated the tree, she and my dad and brother went out of town for a week. My grandmother stayed with me. One day I thought I could do away with my embarrassment of “country come to town” by taking down the pie pans. Of course she noticed right away when they returned home and they promptly went back up.

I was thinking of this Christmas memory lately as some friends baked fruitcakes in their home; and that reminded me of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” When he was a boy, he and his aunts decorated similarly and they danced in the kitchen with a dog and Truman ran outside in a field with a relative, falling to the ground while holding a kite string. “As for me,” he says, “I could die with today in my eyes.”

For baking, he and one of the women slipped to the door of an Indian man’s home to buy whiskey. They called him Mr. Ha Ha.

I came to appreciate and even love this movie. My mother and I often watch it together. I love its simplicity. I think, especially this time of year, how nice it would be to give and receive simple gifts of food, and maybe a pair of socks. And to fly a kite in a field on Christmas Day.

It also makes me nostalgic for that pie-pan tree, once a source of teen-age embarrassment. I wish my mother had it still, so you could see the homemade light it created, the aluminum plates winking in the sun.


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