In case you didn’t catch it, our little Buddy-roo’s name is derived from JD Salinger’s famous high school reading list title, Catcher in the Rye. Salinger happens to be De-facto’s favorite author, inspiring the nickname and prompting his email to me this weekend reminding me of its source.
I wonder how many people in the world, when they heard that Salinger died, walked to their bookcases and reached up to pull this dusty book off the shelf and skim through its pages. That’s the first thing I thought to do when I heard the news. How propitious to be at my mother’s house, I thought, where I lived during my high school years. Immediately, I pictured the thin paperback, the design of its cover and its exact placement – third shelf up, to the right – on our bookcase.
Except it’s no longer there. My mother didn’t even save it for the damn yard sale. I think she donated it to the AAUW book sale last year, or maybe the year before. The shelf where it used to rest is now barren.
I picked up the phone. Dialed a number I know by heart, still, all these years later. The man who answered was one of five boys who lived across the road, our earliest childhood friends. Now he has children of his own who are growing up in that very same house, a house filled with stories and mischief and crocheted blankets. A house that gave me my first sense of other – their books, their objects d’art, their print of the Peaceable Kingdom – where I got my first notion of the world outside my own family’s universe. It was other, and yet it was as familiar and comforting as anything I knew from our side of the road.
Twenty minutes later he rang the doorbell. He is as handsome as ever, an older version of his original self. He handed me his high school copy of Catcher in the Rye. “It’s red,” he said, laughing, “when you called, all I could think of was it had a red cover.” He also knew right where to go to retrieve it.
I loved that his memory of the book, like mine, was so visual and spatial. Maybe this ranks with questions like, Where you were when JFK was shot? or What you were doing on 9/11?
This major milestone of modern literature merits the questions that probably most of us can answer: What color was your copy of Catcher in the Rye, and on which shelf was it kept?
I handled the old red paperback with care, its pages more than yellowed, but still legible. Then, on page 28, halfway down there it was:
“Be a buddy. Be a buddyroo, okay?”
The satisfaction of finding this slightly obscure reference in the book was too soon replaced with a bittersweet longing for my own Buddy-roo and her sister Short-pants. De-facto is a most capable solo pilot, so I do not worry (much) about how things are going at home in Paris. But that does not keep me from missing them.
I think of all the stories I’ve told about being frustrated or fed up, about missing my freedom, or about how good it is to have time alone and time away from my children. All those tales are true, just as true as this: I miss them so fiercely right now. I wish they could be here, so I could get that little hit that comes when their faces light up to see me after being gone, even for just an hour. I wish they could be here, to comfort me in that unconscious way that they do, just by being who they are. I wish they could be here, just one more time, to see their Grammy, to crawl in bed with her, like they so love to do.
And so it is, then, just as Holden Caulfield says in that famous last line of Catcher and the Rye: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”