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The Christmas Lettersby Lee Smith
A Shoebox of a Home
So I want everybody out there to know that I am fine, happy as can be in this little aqua shoebox of a home with my baby Andrew. We are so busy in here that it is very difficult right now for me to even imagine any other world outside these four walls.
I watch Vietnam on television of course, and often think of you, Joe, but honestly it is hard for me to concentrate too long or to believe that the war is actually real and not just another show on television. I know that's awful, but it's true. Somehow I believe it would seem more real to me if it wasn't on television all the time. Honestly, my imagination has failed me on this. I'm so glad you will be home soon.
But, Joe, I do wish you would write, at least to me. I'm sure you are hearing this from all of us, so do it! Make copies and send one to everybody, like I am doing here. I'm sure the Army has got a mimeograph machine someplace! By the way, it is hard for me to believe you scarcely know Sandy yet. Somehow I think that all the people I love, love each other as much as I love them, and I forget that you all have hardly met.
Well, I will quit running on and on and tell you now about Sandy's and my first Christmas dinner together (yesterday). It was a riot! We had a baked hen which barely fit in my oven (I am trying, Mama!) and oyster casserole which did not work out because I used smoked oysters instead of the real other kind which I guess you are supposed to use. (I had bought these flat square little cans of oysters at the Piggly Wiggly, they were very expensive and blew my whole food budget for the week, but I thought you had to have oyster casserole on Christmas, Mama. I thought it was the law!)
Well, it looked okay, the cracker crumbs having formed a nice golden crust just the way they are supposed to, but the minute I bit into it, I knew something was the matter. But Sandy did not even know the difference because he had never tasted oysters before anyway. Luckily, Sandy will eat anything, and he thought it was delicious! We ate Christmas dinner on the floor-on our aqua shag carpet, that is!-since we don't have a table yet (though Sandy is going to build us one soon, he can build anything, if he can get off from work long enough to do it) while Andrew slept on his blanket right beside us.
And when we got up to do the dishes, we saw it had started to snow! So we bundled poor little sleepy Andrew up in that red snowsuit you sent, Mama, and took him out in his first snowfall ever, which was coming down so thick and fast at first that we couldn't even see beyond our little row of trailers, to the street.
The streetlight made a perfect cone of light, full of whirling flakes, as we stood beneath it and stuck our tongues out to catch the flakes and tried to make Andrew stick his tongue out, too. How sweet and cold those snowflakes were, melting on our tongues, I will never forget it.
And then before we knew it, everybody from the other trailers had come out too, and we met neighbors we had never even seen before! Such as a crazy old lady named Miss Pike, who wears the most makeup you have ever seen and used to teach singing lessons, opera I believe, and a fat little man named Leonard Dodd who described himself as an "inventor" (though I don't know what he invents), and another man named Gerald Ruffin who looked very aristocratic, but wore a plaid robe and red velvet bedroom shoes and was drunk as a lord. Somebody whispered that he used to be a lawyer but had fallen on hard times. He was in politics, too. He is from one of the most prominent families in the state. I guess he must be the black sheep of that family! We all talked about the snow, and passed around some of the fudge you sent, Mama, and then the Teeter sisters had us in for coffee. You have never seen as much junk as they have squeezed into their trailer-they call it "brick-a-brack." It covers every surface that is not already covered by a doily. All their coffee cups were made of flowery bone china, with gold rims. Gerald Ruffin's hands were shaking so much that his cup rattled on his saucer like a castanet. Well, I could go on and on. . . . Anyway, I don't know whether it was that coffee or pure excitement; but I couldn't sleep a wink all night long. I lay snuggled up to Sandy like a spoon in a drawer and listened to Andrew make his snuffly little sounds in sleep, and peeped out the porthole window at my portion of the sky, which was full of whirling flakes, no two alike in the universe, and thought about my baby, and my husband, and Daddy, and all of you, and my heart was full to bursting.
Merry Christmas and love from your very poor but very happy,
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