“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
-JD Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
I think I missed the transition. I missed the moment when I stopped being a kid. I don’t know how it happened, whether it was over night, the result of one instance, or a gradual and painless process, but as I look back, I do realize that I missed it, and that makes me sad.
I read The Catcher in the Rye during my sophomore year of high school, again my junior year, and I wrote a research paper on it during my senior year. I don’t know what drew me to it, maybe I’m a undercover sociopath (for those who don’t know, the man who shot Lennon and the man who shot Reagan were both found with a copy of the book on them after the shootings.) But I like to think that I’m not a sociopath. I think one of the main draws of this book for me is it helps me to mourn the parts of me that I would have otherwise lost and forgotten.
My dad once told me that he believes there’s a part of us who mourns our loved ones for our whole life, not just at the moment that we lose them to death. He mentioned that he loves me and is so proud of who I am today, but there is a part of him who misses the little girl with a backpack double the size of her small torso running to sit with her best friend on the bus.
I will never be her again, and yes, that’s a good thing. I’ve seen the reality shows on those grown up babies, and quite frankly they’re creepy. However, there is still a sadness to it.
One day I stopped playing with Barbies. One day I stopped creating new worlds in the limitless confines of my back yard. One day I stopped finding Roley Poley Oley entertaining, and one day Judy B Jones books became a little less funny.
I missed it.
I missed the day I stopped being a kid, and the Catcher in the Rye let me make that transition with someone else instead. I missed the day that I entered this calloused world of adulthood, and I missed the moment that everything was different. I’m just here now, in this game of constant catch up. I’m here, and I’m busy, and I miss my imagination, and my ability to escape to an abandoned island. I’m here and I’m immersed in the “F you’s” written on the wall that no one was able to erase.
I’m here, and I’m watching one of my nieces dive head first into this world, and I’m mourning the two year old who once thought every animal was called a “Zoe” like her puppy. I’m here and I’m, watching my other niece fight it, fight the world, fight the loss of her imagination, fight the pressure to grow up, in a way that I wish I was strong enough to do for just a little longer.
“Sydney, do you want a pedicure for your birthday?” I asked her.
“No thank you,” she replied, “I might want one when I turn 9, but for now I think I’ll stay a kid a little longer.”
You do that, Sydney. You be the kid, and I’ll try my hardest to be your catcher in the rye. You be the kid, and I’ll try my hardest to never ignore you when you ask me where the ducks go when it get’s cold. I’ll try my hardest to erase all of the “F you’s” written on the walls before your eyes can see them.
You be the kid. You stay a kid for a little longer.