A Holiday Tradition
December 18, 2002
A favorite holiday tradition of mine is to revisit Rita Mae Brown’s "Rubyfruit Jungle" every December 25th. While it may seem an odd choice at first (most people probably just reread A Christmas Carol or watch A Charlie Brown Christmas again), all you have to do is turn to Chapter Five and follow the book’s narrator, a sixth grader named Molly, to understand why this book has a special place in my heart, particularly at this time of year. As the chapter opens, Molly is in hot pursuit of the love of her life (thus far), one Leota B. Bisland. The holidays are looking up for our Molly, who lands the role of the Virgin Mary in the annual Christmas play. What better part with which to impress Leota, the girl she hopes to marry someday?
Unfortunately for Molly, her enemy Cheryl Spiegeglass has been cast in the role of Joseph, perhaps the first instance of an eleven-year old drag king appearing in the literature of the American south. Like most religious events, things get ugly quickly: Molly rocks the cradle too hard and the baby Jesus doll falls out, Cheryl begins ad-libbing, and a shepherd pees right on stage. Cheryl is furious, telling the shepherd that he “can’t pee in front of the little lord Jesus, get back to the hills,” but Molly, the more compassionate of the two, shouts, “He can pee where he wants to, this is a stable, ain’t it?” Violence erupts in Christ’s name as Molly sends a bearded Cheryl sailing into the audience of horrified parents.
Now that’s what I call a Yuletide to remember.