I thought I resented my father for being absent and passive. I probably don’t know what I would do if I had one like Jeannette Walls‘.
Glass Castle is a memoir of popular American writer Jeannette Walls – which chronicles her nomadic childhood with unconventional and undomesticated parents. You know when they say some adults have no business having kids (4 for that matter), Jeannette parents are the poster couple – reckless, self-serving and irresponsible hippies.
Apparently, before now (circa 2004), she had been living a ‘false life’ so to speak and this was an avenue to set the records straight and come to terms with her rather unique upbringing. Who would blame her? Who wouldn’t be ashamed of parents – one part alcoholic, one part mentally ill who couldn’t be bothered with raising children – who enjoyed being homeless, who tagged their irresponsibilities and nightmarish lifestyle as adventures.
This memoir is unlike anything I’ve ever read and I’ve read a ton of them. As brazen as it is, it manages to take you on a whirlwind of emotions. One minute, I’m laughing out loud (literally), the next, I’m near tears and I hardly cry and the next, I’m shocked beyond belief. These emotions, as far as I’m concerned, goes to show the reality of their situation. Abject poverty. It’s unbelievable. In fact, I got to a point that I started muttering words of prayer under my breath. Thank You Lord For Everything.
It didn’t even help that Jeannette parents were just about the worse kind. You heard things like this,
“Mom always said people worried too much about their children. Suffering when you’re young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and your soul, and that was why she ignored us kids when we cried. Fussing over children who cry only encourages them, she told us. That’s positive reinforcement for negative behaviour.”
The most amazing thing is that, in the midst of all is, Rex and Rose Mary Walls always manages to make sense in such a whimsical manner. They were such fun – loving people who happen to fall in love and have a bunch of kids. I’m not even sure they took time out to do some family planning. All I know is, they decided to swing it anyhow it came and the kids turned out fine in the end. As much as I don’t necessarily subscribe to the style of parenting – times are hard and dangerous – I think it’s admirable. They made all the (extreme) choices we – you and I – wouldn’t even possibly think of. All of these seemingly harsh living conditions and challenges moulded these kids into talented individuals. It doesn’t get any better than that. Best thing? They got to live in different places at different points. That’s probably the ultimate childhood experience.
Do I judge them for all the choices they make? No, of course not! I think they should own it. Even though, Jeannette and her siblings were smart enough to survive hence becoming premature parents to their parents, it doesn’t change the fact that, at that point in time there’s really nothing they could have done except work harder and turn out nothing like their folks. Which is exactly what they did. Their parents were the catalyst they needed for success in life.
Now, some of my favorite quotes.
“You should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. Everyone has something good about them. You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that.”
“Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.”
“Why spend the afternoon making a meal that will be gone in an hour,” she’d ask us, “when in the same amount of time, I can do a painting that will last forever?”
“No child is born a delinquent. They only became that way if nobody loved them when they were kids. Unloved children grow up to be serial murderers or alcoholics.”
“Don’t you make fun of me or my children! Some babies are premature. Mine were all postmature. That’s why they’re so smart. Their brains had longer to develop.”