Capote’s Beloved Short Story A Christmas Memory - TribPapers
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Capote’s Beloved Short Story A Christmas Memory

E.R. Haire, Jr. presented a one-man show of A Christmas Memory.

Flat Rock – Earl Ross (E.R.) Haire Jr. presented a one-man show at St. John in the Wilderness church in Flat Rock this past weekend, free of charge. There were four performances with a maximum capacity of 35 due to COVID 19-protocals; there was a full house. This touching short story by Truman Capote was skillfully portrayed by Haire. “ A Christmas Memory”  takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Until he was ten years old, Truman Capote lived with elderly relatives in a small town in rural Alabama. The story is a frank autobiographical account of those years, especially of his relationship with one of the elderly cousins, Miss Sook Faulk. Stage Magic

With little to no stage, Haire managed to convey the magnetic personalities that Capote writes about. As you watch the one-man presentation, you clearly feel the presence of characters in the story. Haire’s facial expressions, tone of voice, movements and gestures capture each personality and endears them to the audience. The love and care between the young boy of seven, Buddy, and his elderly cousin known as “My Friend,”  permeates the air. You hear his cousin say the words, “It’s fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat.” The audience grows to understand the significance of these words. All the ingredients must be gathered to bake the cakes—pecans, cherries, ginger and pineapple. The fruitcakes must be sent to many  friends far and wide in time for Christmas. This, of course, includes President and Mrs. Roosevelt. There are many ingredients, including buying a bottle of whiskey taken from the Fruitcake Fund at the cafe of Mr & Mrs. HaHa Jones, neighboring Native Americans. The story of the touching memories of young Capote unfolds beautifully to cover a number of years in their lives. It is a heartfelt, poignant tale that Haire vividly brings to life as a one-man presentation, just in time to warm hearts for the Christmas season. 

Steeped in history is St. John in the Wilderness church in Flat Rock. Photo courtesy of St. John in the Wilderness.

About Haire

Earle Ross (E.R.) Haire, Jr.  is a native of North Carolina. His professional achievements combine acting and theology. Haire earned a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Yale University Divinity School, with a focus on drama and worship. In 2017 he earned a PhD. in Theology and Ethics from the University of the Edinburgh in Scotland. In Los Angeles, he worked as an actor and at Paramount Studios. 

Truman Capote was a flamboyant figure in both literary and cultural circles. A Christmas Memory first appeared in “Mademoiselle” Magazine in the late 1950s, when Capote was 27 years old. It has since become one of his most beloved and bestselling works. Some great examples of his skills are found among those stories inspired by his early childhood and the relationships he forged deep in the rural South. A high school dropout, Capote moved permanently North and worked as an office boy at The New Yorker before bursting onto the literary scene at the age of 23. Capote was a controversial, colorful and complex writer. His best-known works include Breakfast at Tiffany’s, In Cold Blood, Other Voices Other Rooms, and The Grass Harp. Capote died in 1984 at the age of 59.

St. John in the Wilderness 

St. John in the Wilderness in Flat Rock is a lovely old stone church that dates back to 1833.  In August of 1836, Susan and Charles Baring of Charleston deeded the chapel to the Diocese of Western North Carolina. Twenty members of the Flat Rock “summer colony” formed themselves into an Episcopal parish. St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and is the oldest parish in the diocese.

The granite base and 6 foot tall cross was placed and dedicated in the cemetery in 2016 to memorialize the slaves and freedmen buried there. Photo courtesy of St. John in the Wilderness.

The church offers a unique perspective on prominent families in Southern and national history. Many well-known members of southern aristocracy have family plots in the churchyard, including Christopher Memminger, first secretary of the Confederate treasury; Rev. John Drayton, developer of the world-famous Magnolia Gardens of Charleston; members of the families of three signers of the Declaration of Independence; and  Edward P. King, the World War II General who became the commanding general of the Philippine-American forces on the Bataan Peninsula. In addition, many free Blacks and slaves are buried in the church’s cemetery.  A granite cross was dedicated in 2016 to honor the approximately one hundred African-American parishioners, slaves and house servants who are buried in the historic cemetery. 

St. John in the Wilderness participates in many community activities throughout the year and holiday season. This year, the parish hosted an Angel Tree and a Big Brothers Big Sisters toy drive. The Outreach Committee allocated nearly $40,000 to partner agencies and large donations to Interfaith Assistance Ministry and The Edneyville Community Food Pantry.  Rev. Josh Stephens is the rector, Rev. Sandy Rex is the deacon and Dewitt Tipton, is organist and musical director. On Christmas Eve, St. John is hosting a 5:00 pm and 10:30 pm service and on Christmas Day an 11:00 am Eucharist service.  On December 26, there is 11 am Christmas lessons and carols.  Father Josh says in the church bulletin, “The Voice,” “May the poverty that Christ embraced on our behalf, make you rich in love and grace this holiday season.”

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