Guys, teaching is not a gravy job. When I have time to read, which is rare, I’ve been reading things from the waiting list.
This week I finished The Glass Castle and I’m forty pages away from finishing Persepolis. Honestly, I should be reading Persepolis right now instead of typing this goofed-up blog. Don’t worry I’ll be cuddling into my bed in just a short time to read the finishing forty pages and remind myself that the War in Iraq is not just America’s story of terrorism, but a history of change, revolution and backlash.
Today, I taught my kids about fences and walls. It was a literal and figurative activity. Why do we put up literal fences? To keep people out, or keep them in. To have privacy, to protect what’s ours. Why do we put up fences around our hearts or minds? The same reasons. You protect your heart whether the Bible told you so, or you learned to from your past.
I talked about moats in almost every period. It sounded like this, “I know you all have seen a Disney movie, what kind of fences do Kings have to protect the Princess?…In Sleeping Beauty, it’s a briar patch, but in most fairytales, it’s a moat.” All day I was thinking about The Glass Castle and all these dreams that little girls have. I think little girl’s learn dreams from their daddies, who read to them from the soft creep of a rocking chair or squeeze into their small two-bit beds just to have storytime.
I didn’t realize until this moment that The Glass Castle was about a childhood, but it was also about a daugther’s dreams. The Glass Castle is really the story of Wall wanting to save her father, who is the head of her family. She so badly wanted to save her father, and while her dream when she was under seven was this glass castle that he promised, her dream as an adult was the glass castle of her family not breaking. I really loved how she was the one always sticking up for her father and when she did have the chance to prove her “strength” in the feminist way, she did what her mother had done her whole life, kept giving him money. Trying to save her dad and prove her belief in him didn’t change him, but it changed her. I think my father’s response to my dreams has changed my dreams and me as well.
The Glass Castle is every little girl’s dream when she stares at her toes skipping past the cracks in the sidewalk. The glass castle is a dream that’s so immaculate it’s beyond the Disney version where the fields never sour and the grass never dries brown from root to tip, but, it’s still this breakable fragile thing. The dream is so easily shattered; one bad storm, one open wound, one hard fall. How heavy it is to carry; this dream made of glass, hair bows, and heartbeats.
When I was nine…or eleven…I told my dad that when I published my first bestseller I would buy him a Lexus. It would be whatever kind of Lexus he wanted. I saw him watch the commercial for years and talk about how sleek the car looked, how nice the tan seats shined. I told him he’d just have to wait until I was twenty-two and by then I’d have my first book out and all would be golden. The pages would be creased and inked with my name, America’s fingerprint smudges, and a Harper Perennial editor. I would give him the first review copy because he was always the one to review my stories, even when he said they were too flowery. (I can be fierce when it comes to constructive criticism). I’m twenty-four and I haven’t published a book, but I still believe in that dream as much for myself as for my father.
I think Jeannette Walls knew her father wanted her to go to college, to escape Little Hobart Street and the half-yellow house that shines on the hill even though it’s crumbling and slumped. I think she knew that her father believed in her even when she couldn’t believe in him. This book was so moving, not because of the success of the children regardless of their dysfunctional upbringing, but the success of their eclectic (and sometimes dangerous) upbringing on their character and their growing dreams.
You know from the beginning that Mr. Wall is a a man of deep knowledge, but how he chose to share it with the world was different from what the world wanted to hear. Sometimes we look at people and think, “What an idiot,” or “How disgusting” or “You’re the lowest of the earth” instead of thinking about their dreams. I bet they have dreams. I bet they still keep them in a pocket, or a folder in the creased pocked of their pillow. I bet sometimes they take it out and see how it tastes, how much they could do with it now that they’re older and wiser, how many new dreams they have and how many dreams they’ve just let go like a child’s kite into the blue panel of sky. It kind of reminds of THE BFG. He kept our dreams in glass jars, like mason jars on a shelf and took them out to tickle them.
I might have replaced that childhood castle with a book, but I still carry the glass around with me, shaped like a numbered page in the palm of my hand.