Me & Holden Caulfield

I just read Catcher in the Rye again.

Funny how different you can see a book the second or third or fourth time you read it.

In high school, as a mixed-race-white-looking-class-individual-child-of-divorce-latchkey-kid, I saw Holden Caulfield as a hero: a justifiably disaffected, perpetually misunderstood troublemaker trying to find his place in the world.

Basically, I liked him because I was him. But I was too far into my own stuff to get it.

Now, as a father-of-two-trained-counselor-and-writer-in-a-massively-healthy-relationship, I’m someone who has loved and lost, someone who has cried uncontrollably in someone else’s arms. I see the book differently now.

Holden was grieving the loss of his younger brother. And failing miserably at it.

Like the high-school me, he’d shut off his feelings and couldn’t figure out how to turn them back on. He was imaginative and bright and did quite a good job of hiding in his brain. He attracted people to him only to disappoint them with his emotional limits. He was sensitive and kind-hearted. People loved him from afar because that was as close as they could get, and he resented them for getting even that close.

Today, Holden would be my client or my older daughter’s friend, the one I secretly counseled through the car window.

In some ways, I became the future Holden Caulfield, the proverbial Catcher in the Rye who lives among the tall stalks of rye and catches people before they run unknowingly over the edge of a cliff.

Books, like the past, don’t change, but we, the people who read and write them, do. And that means they actually do change.

Many of us long for another time, and others are still waiting for the good years to arrive. We’re always too old or too young by our count.

And when we hit a stretch of time that fills us with wonder and passion and discovery, we want to hold on to that time forever, to reach down into the earth and stop the world from spinning.

But, God, what would we miss?

The chance to change the future and the past. To undo and redo. To proudly and painfully fall to pieces when it is necessary.

So heartbreakingly beautiful, we are. Traveling through time. Grasping for each other’s hands.

Holden, it’s me. You’re doing alright, kid. Just keep going. And keep reaching out even when it doesn’t make sense. Don’t worry that you can’t see what’s up ahead. Just keep going.

I got you.