~ AN HOMAGE ~
December 8, 2011
To Ms. Lee Smith,
First may I say Merry Christmas to You and Yours. Second may I apologize, for this letter has been a long time coming, too long some would say.
You see I have been reading your books for many years and feel like we are close although I have only met you in person on two occasions. To hear Mama tell it we are practically kin, on account of our families were in the same business all those years ago, there in those beautiful Southwest Virginia mountains. And then you attended Hollins College, as Mama did, but I did not, a decision about which I was sure back then although now I think perhaps I was mistaken. You were from Grundy, I believe; I was a Wise girl.
(I especially like it that you choose to have “our” Piggly Wiggly show up in most all your books, a recurrence about which I am most pleased.)
There are many things about which I would like to write and tell you (like the fact that the first book I ever loved was The Last Day The Dogbushes Bloomed, which I read ON MY OWN when I was a girl who worked at the Wise Library one summer and I didn’t even know it was you who wrote it) but I will save all that for another letter. For now I will leave it at this: I am writing to tell you that I am re-reading your book, The Christmas Letters, because it is a very good Christmas story that is not at all sappy and if it is, it is sappy in a good way.
I have read it before and as a general rule do not re-read books because there are so many goods books in the world who could have the time? And so I tried to find another Christmas book, it being December. But every one reads like a Lifetime Television for Women movie, in which there is always a single girl and a lonely boy, and a well-meaning (quirky) friend, and a school Christmas play. Sometimes there is also a choir, which can be a children’s choir, or a choir of men who are down-and-out but who have really good voices, come to find out.
Anyway, what I want to do is this: Sit by my fireplace with a cup of hot tea and the quiet of the snow outside (I must confess that is not likely as I live in South Carolina now) and to read something with a genuine heart during this season of Christmas when my own heart is longing for it. And I think your story of Birdie Picket, and Mary, and Melanie, and them being women connected by experience, as well as family, and how you tied it all together with those recipes (mostly old-timey), is just exactly perfect.
With wishes for a very good holiday there in North Carolina (or wherever you might be now, and I hope it is somewhere writing a book like On Agate Hill which is my very favorite, except for Oral History. Or maybe Fair and Tender Ladies, it is so hard to decide),
Catherine Carter Rigg Monetti
daughter of Eliza Rose Sutton Rigg
of the Kennedy’s Piggly Wiggly stores in Wise, Virginia
ps: I have decided to make Mary Pickett’s Award Winning Carrot Cake for dessert on Christmas Day. I think my Eliza (the one who is my daughter, not my mother) will really like the cream cheese frosting, with all that “confectionary” sugar, as she calls it.
pss: Now that I think of it, my mother Eliza would like it too, except for the carrots.
This post first appeared on The Daily Grace in December of 2011. Since that time I have had the great honor of studying with Lee Smith at the Key West Literary Seminar Writers’ Workshop. Life is so good!