04 April 2007

The little shack across the tracks

As I travel, I like to read. Making small talk on a plane is not high on my list of things to do. So I always make sure I bring along a couple of books to read while traveling. I usually like to keep it light reading as I am not one for emotion or intensity while trying to relax. This trip I chose two excellent reads.

Amy Tan has always been a favorite of mine. Her Joy Luck Club is one book I could read again and again. That is huge for me because once a book has been read, it usually goes to my library and resides on the shelf waiting for another person to pull it down. I don't revisit books. This time Amy entertained me with her Saving Fish from Drowning. Wow oh wow. I loved it. Her descriptive process always impresses me. I felt as if I was walking along with her experiencing every turn and cobblestone along the journey. Half way through the book, I mentioned to my daughter I never wanted to go to the country Amy was writing about. The story was frightening and thrilling at the same time. At the end there is a twist, a betrayal of sorts. It was surprising and enjoyable. I recommend your time being spent reading Saving Fish from Drowning.

Now the reference to the title of the post. I chose the second book, even though my sister said I probably wouldn't enjoy it. Just the opposite took place, however, I loved it. I cannot really express why other than the author was my voice. My childhood, in a sense. I highly recommend the book. The Glass Castle is an autobiography. Some will say it is a grand exaggeration. Some will saying it is half lies. Others will say she suffered at the hands of mentally ill parents. What I say is yes.

Garbage pit in the yard filled with garbage. Check. Stealing utilities from public utilities. Check. Wondering on a daily basis what will be available to eat. Check. Moving in the middle of the night. Check. Alcohol abuse. Check. I could go on and on. Jeanette Walls and I lived parallel lives. Had I known she was such a short trip away we could have been fast friends. Her life wasn't an exaggeration though. It was just like mine.

With one exception. She had both parents. She knew, in their own messed up way, they both loved her. And that they both felt they were teaching her to survive in the world. They were arming her with the necessary tools to successfully traverse the shark infested waters of the world. She had two parents. I cannot underscore how much different that made us.

I had a mom and a revolving door of men coming in and out. And an alcoholic father who would appear promptly on my birthday each year until I was ten to make sure complete and utter turmoil had been established and then disappear as if he were Merlyn the Magician. I have been the parent most of my life. I have had my friends parents tell me if my parents would just pay their bills things would be better. I have heard the whispers of good people behind my back criticizing our every move. And I couldn't change any of it. I still can't. I just swim my shark like swim and hope it doesn't all come crashing down around my feet.

However, Jeanette and I learned what we needed to learn. The example provided by parents were excellent teaching methods. So wrong, yet so right. Children should not have to worry about clothing, shelter and food. Yet every day children all over the U.S., not just the world are subjected to that tragedy, it is not an exaggeration at all. I made the choice to move away from my childhood in a stable way. My daughters have reaped the benefit of my hard choices. There was still a portion of a crazy parent there, but whose children don't think their parents are just a little weird?

The worst is people make judgements about you when you talk about how you wouldn't react in a situation like most of the rest of people. The harshest comments being, "well, you are so very arrogant as to think you would not react that way". My feeling is to strike back, recoil and strike again, it takes all I can to not ripped some one's head off and tell them how ignorant they really are. Especially when they live in a dream world I call "perfect parent" world. They've had two parents, the dad worked, the mom stayed home, dinners were always prepared on time, clothes were always washed and clean and ready to wear. They had perfect birthday parties and cupcakes at school and the worst thing that happened to them ever is they forgot their lines in a play at school or farted in front of the class. Then without any knowledge of me or my circumstances they tell me I have no idea of that which I speak. Heh. I have experienced most of it. And I know, I'll survive no matter what. No matter what.

I recommend the book. It will help the "perfect parent" people see a glimpse inside a world they've never even had a clue existed, except the whispered tittering of a few gossips, and see and hopefully learn empathy. It will help those of us who've lived the "walls world" know there are others like us and it wasn't all bad.