I never understood the attraction to Catcher in the Rye until now. Or rather, I never understood those who related to the book. Holden’s idea is one that sticks though, the person who keeps those younger than themselves from danger.
In reading Jellicoe Roadby Malina Marchetta, a book about a girl named Taylor whose Father died on Jellicoe Road, things became clearer about both the Catcher in the Rye and myself.
Jellicoe Road is a mish-mash, almost a dream state book until a quarter of the way in when it finally becomes clear that Taylor is a girl, and is at a boarding school, and belongs to a ‘House’ where 50 girls stay. And now that summer has come the war of the school versus the townies versus the Cadets (who come to camp in the woods) begins. Taylor has been chosen leader, both of her house and the school. She does not understand it, as her mother left her at a 7/11 one day ten years before. Indeed, she has no adult interaction except for Hannah, who has disappeared. Taylor ran away five years ago to find her mother, teaming up with a Cadet, Jonah, only to have him call the school when she was only a few kilometers from her mother. Jonah is now in charge of the Cadets and the summer war is on, but also in the background are romances, the history of Hannah, the Brigadier (who brought her home before), legends of a dead Cadet, and a long term serial kidnapper and killer who randomly had struck in the towns around where she lives over the past several years.
After wading through all this, the odd and inherited rules of pre-adult state appears: those traditions followed without understanding and the questioning of what these rules are about. Taylor, as head of House learns that she is, want it or not, the ‘adult’ the other girls look to, even the arsonists that the state dumps on them (boarding school with some juvie offenders in it). With a dead father, and pointed out as the girl who a local hermit whispered something to before blowing out his brains, Taylor wants to be just alone, but she starts to understand that her actions can bring calm or agitation and fear. And it is that fear and uncertainty which she has herself known, growing up with a junkie mother.
There is much to recommend Jellicoe Road, from the use of all the senses, when she stays overnight at a friend’s whose mother has her wear an old fashioned nightie with starch and bows. She wears it because it smells like comfort, like a mother should smell. Off to find her mother again she meets Sam, whose mother watched the kids when her mother ‘worked’ (the streets). Why is Sam so mad, and what has this to do with the memory she told her friend Raf long ago, the one that Raf won’t tell her back. Raf says there are some memories that shouldn’t be kept. And Jonah, who is helping her find her mother grows more and more appalled at this woman, as they follow the trail of her self destruction. Taylor sums it up simply by turning to him surprised and saying, “I said I wanted to find her, I didn’t say I loved her.”
So, watching the 7th year girls and younger, the 8 year old to 13 year olds singing and gossiping, she wants to give the security and stability that she never had. She knows where the emotional cliffs are because she has fallen down them, or been thrown down them many times. And so she, like so many empathetic individuals whose lives have ‘fucked up’ written across them in bold letters, stands guard so that others will not know the solitude and ache she has inside. The other girls have family but more than that, they know that someone cares about them, and cares every minute of every day. Taylor learns more than to ‘fake it’ but to be part of that circle of stability in their lives. To simply 'be there' in all time, the one for whom it can be said, "I knew you would come for me."
And while I did not have a summer like Taylor, not since the age of 8 or 9, due to a childhood lost, having more in common with homeless and settlers who scrounge for living, than I did with any classmate, I understood the importance of what I didn’t have. I wanted to be there for others, to be the one who wrapped them in love and caring even when they did not love themselves.
For me, in a state of post exercise from the Y, I am recovering, watching the anime, Heroic Age: The Complete Series. It is a space opera, but based on the 12 labors of Hercules, as well as other aspects of the Greek Gods, demi-god and men. Plus there is ideals of Buddhism, mixed in with Shinto and historical Japanese ideas. It also includes the debates of the 17th/18th century rationalists. But it comes together, thanks to some in depth research on the meta-story, as Jung would describe it, and good writing. Much as the joy at finding Hamlet in Season 1 of Sons of Anarchy, I was happy to watch this intellectually engaging meta-story. The Heroic Age is set in space where Humans, losing a universe wide war which they only were aware of once earth was invaded and locked away from them for now over 120 years.
It was a much appreciate birthday present, as I often, like today, only have the range of my oxygen cord to move. It was to me what I wanted the Postcard and gift projects to be to others, the tangible expression of the idea: “You matter, how you feel matters, I care about you and please, don’t give up.” I think that desire to have someone there to wrap the arms around you and say they will always love you is universal....even convicts love their mother and vice versa.
Some times, some days, I just need to rest and be cared for. The pain is high, the body is weak, and what can be endured has been beyond limits. I live while most at this stage have died; I go out, while the experience of carers and families is that this is a time lived out of my bed. I fight, I hold, but some days, I have to be carried. I am not phsycially stronger than those who die, I just seem to want 'it’ more.
Perhaps that is why I identify with Taylor, who moves with purpose. I have not the energy to chase a dream and let it slip away as Holden does. Whether the dreams are folly or not, I pursue them with singular intent. I am lonely in a way that will likely never be full. But that doesn't stop me from trying. I send emails, postcards, gifts, blog posts and I keep postcards, and polished rocks, mementos and gifts all littered from bed to bathroom to study. For they, like the ripples of the wind upon the water are the proof that I am not alone.
4 hours ago