Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Glass Castle (copy)

The earliest memory Jeanette Walls has is not pleasant. She is three years old, standing on a chair overseeing her hotdogs as they boil on the stove. Juju, the family dog stares at her in hopes of snagging a delicious treat. She caves in and jabs a juicy dog holding it over him to cool. As she bends over to serve him the hem of her dress connects with the burner and catches on fire.

“Frozen with fear, I watched the yellow-white flames make a ragged brown line up the pink fabric of my skirt and climb my stomach. Then the flames leaped up, reaching my face.”

“I screamed. I smelled the burning and heard a horrible crackling as the fire singed my hair and eyelashes. Juju was barking. I screamed again.”

At the hospital Jeanette received skin grafts from her upper thighs to cover the burns on her stomach, ribs and chest. Afterwards, the nurses wrapped her entire left side and attached her left arm to the bed post behind her. She remarked, “Look, I’m a half-mummy.”

The doctors and nurses quizzed her at the beginning. Where did you get all these cuts and bruises? How did you get burned? What are you doing making hotdogs by yourself?

She was confused. She thought, what is so hard about making hotdogs? You just boil water. It isn’t like there is some huge receipt you have to follow. She also wondered why it was important for her mother to oversee her cooking. She was quick to tell them, “Mom says I’m mature for my age and she lets me cook for myself a lot.”

After around six weeks in the hospital, Jeanette’s dad appeared in the hallway door. He told her they were going to check out, Rex Walls—style. He unhooked her arm from behind her head and gentle cradled her against his chest. He then took off for the door. A couple of nurses yelled at him to stop but he kept running.

At the curb, we were met by the rest of the family sitting in the Blue Goose as it idled. Dad yelled for Mom to scoot over because it was time to skedaddle.

As one reads The Glass Castle, many of Jeanette’s memories can be placed in the same “not pleasant” category. Yet, she is not bitter. And, although her story is sad, she writes because she needs to get it out. You will read because you need to find out.