Do you find yourself complaining about midterms? Don’t want to write those final papers? Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine life outside of your college education. Many people would be happy to complain about taking finals, yet we take them for granted. Now I’m sure that this isn’t the case for all of us, but sometimes we need to add a little perspective to make us appreciate exactly what we do have.
One person whose story certainly adds some perspective to my life is author Jeannette Walls. She grew up without many of the comforts most of us take for granted every day. Although she was able to get herself out of a hard and heart-rending life, she had to go through a lot to do so. Instead of complaining about what she didn’t have or what she had to do, she found a way to transform her circumstances and inspire others along the way.
The opening scene of her memoir “The Glass Castle” depicts Walls riding in a taxi in downtown New York City, on her way to a party, when she sees a homeless woman digging through a trash can on the side of the street — her mother.
How did she end up digging through a trash can? And why doesn’t her daughter stop to do anything about it? The answers to these questions aren’t the ones you may expect, but through a deeply moving narrative, Jeannette Walls explains how her family came to exist in this split-up state, and why it continues to be this way.
Rex and Rose Mary Walls, Jeannette’s parents, were very eccentric people, which had much to do with influencing this scene of events. Though they loved their children greatly, they were often distracted by their outlook on life from providing what was best for them. Despite the many hardships Walls overcame, many caused by her parents, she does not sound at all like she is simpering about her situation and how they hurt her; rather, she speaks of them with great affection and respect.
Walls was raised, along with three siblings, in a very nomadic fashion for most of her young life, her parents moved the family from place to place quite frequently. While this may not sound overly strange, the odd thing about it is that her parents didn’t always have an actual place for them to move to — they often lived in a hotel or out of their car.
Often distracted by a high-flown fantasy world, Rex Walls frequently brought his children into a world of make-believe to escape real life problems like rent or proper meals. Rose Mary Walls was often more concerned with creating a piece of art than a meal for her family, which often led to the children fending for themselves rather than being taken care of.
Although these attitudes may seem like neglect, Walls does not condemn her parents for making poor choices while raising her and her siblings. Rather, she speaks about her parents with great respect and love for the good things that they were able to pass on while raising them. She reinterprets their behavior in much more positive ways. Rather than seeing her father escaping reality, she praises him for giving her a sense of imagination and hope that there might be magic in the world. Instead of blaming her mother for not providing food for her and her siblings, she appreciates the importance of the art that her mother put so much into creating.
Through an incredible series of events Walls tells her life stories and explains how she overcame extraordinary circumstances to be where she is today: a successful author who has used her talents with words to come to understand her difficult childhood.