I can’t honestly remember when and where I have read a lot of books.
That could be because I read a lot, or that I get engrossed in the content and forget the context. Or I’m just forgetful. But as the world says goodbye to J.D. Salinger today, I have to imagine there a lot of people who clearly remember reading Catcher in the Rye.
We had a screened in porch attached to our white brick house outside Detroit. It never struck me as strange then, but it had fake grass, like astroturf, for carpet. And white cast iron furniture that Dad used to spray with Rustoleum every spring before putting on the scratchy upholstered cushions.
Two of these pieces of furniture were important: one because it was a chaise lounge and I can remember reading for hours on that porch in the summer. You would read just up until it got dark–right at the point you could start to see the orange glow of my dad’s cigarette (Tareytons. Remember those?).
The second piece of important furniture was a white wicker chair who base went down to the floor like a cylinder and, when you lifted it up, you could hide things under it. Over the years that hollow space became useful for many things that will go unnamed. But the first time I recall knowing it was a hiding spot was when my sister quickly shoved Catcher in the Rye under the chair as my Dad got home from work.
Snarky, sarcastic, slightly depressed Holden Caulfield wasn’t really an approved role model in our house. Despite the fact that the tattered burnt orange covered novel was in fact from my Dad’s shelf, we weren’t supposed to read it. And that is what made it all the more delicious…
My sister finished it and then I too drank in its contents, stashing it under the hollow wicker chair. Over the years, Holden shared this hiding place with Are You There God It’s Me Margaret? and Forever by Judy Blume.
Because, putting it plainly, he was kind of a kook. Yes?
It’s the voice of Holden Caufield that we loved.
He captured our imagination, sense of independence, our teenage angst.
It’s those days remembered that we feel we miss.
And thankfully, while Salinger is gone, Holden persists.