Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Franny, Zooey and Me

Could a day be any lazier? On the third day of my Christmas “vacation” and the fourth day of what is being called The Two Weeks of Big Daddy, in which I am not required to get The Quartet up, dressed, fed and to school/babysitter in the mornings because their mother is a teacher and off the same two weeks for Christmas that they are, I woke up at almost 10 o’clock. Unheard of. Shortly after that, our regular plumber showed up to snake the pipes, thus relieving me of the clogged drain headache for a nominal fee. And the rest of the day? Well, I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon listening to Miles Davis and reading, for the 538th time in my life, the Zooey portion of Franny and Zooey, and I couldn’t have been more pretentious if I’d sat down to actually pen a letter to the editor of The New Yorker. The old paperback copy I have is worn, tattered and stained in places, and has traveled with me as much as Kristy has. More specifically than simply reading, though, I thumbed through to the lists and the portions immediately surrounding those lists. I love a good list and Salinger is tops when it comes to this. There is the scene in the bathroom with Zooey and Bessie Glass, which I find a very touching mother/son exchange even though he’s being an ass to her, where she takes inventory of nearly every item in the medicine cabinet. It’s almost a full page and though anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t want anything intimate to do with any bathroom anywhere, there is something very familiar and comfortable about this list and this location. There is also an itemization of articles found in the two large pockets of Bessie’s kimono. It reads like any junk drawer catalog found in any kitchen in any house. Is there anything more reassuring than a kitchen junk drawer? The final list of goods – furniture, knick-knacks, wall hangings, bric-a-brac – is to be found in the Glass’s living room. It may seem like so much clutter to some people, but to me the room has always felt lived in, lived in by a close and familiar family. No matter how many times I read this book, I look forward to walking into the Glass’s living room and feeling welcomed.

So that’s how I spent my morning and early afternoon. A bit later, Team O-G came by bearing food, so we let them in and sat around talking about our Christmases and families. We planned out New Years and admonished the kids for running in the house, being too rough, not sharing, being too loud and eating what they shouldn’t where they shouldn’t. These verbal warnings have become part of our conversations, like punctuation, just as unnoticeable as it is necessary. I've barely left the house in the past 72+ hours, yet we’ve spent much of this time with friends and family, and it is exactly as this time of year should be.

Another part of the book that has always registered with me is the scene where Franny is talking to Zooey, as Buddy Glass, on the phone. She mentions Zooey’s cigar smoking and Buddy (Zooey) says, “The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn’t have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground. We’d never see our Zooey again.” Our friends and their family, and my own kids, have become my ballast, keeping me sane, balanced and grounded. We’ve all had a good year together and I look forward to 2007, to the visits, the conversations, the good times and to the unexpected.