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Nicole Chelkowski My Life and Catcher The number one rule: represent the family the best you can. I was told all of my actions reflected back on the family. The three building blocks of my mom and dad’s parenting are tradition, religion, and love. If I were to switch lives with Holden Caulfield for the day, we’d both be in for a surprise. Tradition; there is so much packed into this one word according to my dad. Tradition can be defined as “an inherited way of thinking”. My dad was raised to respect his heritage and the people he came from. There would be no stretch of the imagination as to what kind of household I would grow up in. Holden, who doesn’t like the idea of change, can be compared to my family, who holds onto things that are important to us for long periods of time. It’s not so much that we don’t like change but these “things” are what get us through life’s ups and downs. It’s 10:29 AM, Sunday morning, and unsurprisingly my family is rushing into church, catching the door before it slams shut. Every week the priest glares at us as we walk up the aisle to our seats, just as he’s starting. I like to think that everyone has some kind of faith, no matter what kind, just faith. I can argue that everyone does because making plans for tomorrow is having faith that you will be in a position to see them through the next day. I choose to express my faith through Catholicism and attending church. If I zone out in church I’m not thinking about money or the million things I have to do when I get home. I take time out of a hectic schedule to think about where I want to be in ten years or my relationship with God. When I sit in church my body decompresses and I get a sort of serene, peaceful, and really in touch with myself feeling. While Holden is contemplating joining a monastery as a way to shut out the rest of the world, I use my faith as a guide through life. There is a famous story that I think describes my faith well. ‘A man had dreamed he was walking on the beach with the Lord. The sky flashed with scenes of his life. He


noticed through the saddest times in his life there was only one set of footprints on the beach. He asked the Lord where he was through those times. The Lord replied that it was then that he carried the man.’ I found it ironic that Holden sees religion as a way to keep him away from change when I use it to face change. Religion is the one thing that will always be in my life and “carry” me through the lowest points. “You’ll always have your sisters, who cares about the rest of them.” This is what my grandmother, with her handkerchief and compact at her disposal, used to tell me every week growing up. Just when you think she is losing her mind she goes and says something that sticks in your brain forever. I felt like she knew things about me that I didn’t even know yet. The relationship you have with your siblings is different for everyone and I think it’s one of those things where it’s either really strong or doesn’t exist at all. I am proud to say that my brother and sisters are my best friends and always will be. No matter what, family always came first; there was no question about it. Lisa, Christina, Marie, Anne, and Michael, all older than me, make up the top slot of important people to me. I miss torturing my brother with girl talk and stealing my sisters’ clothes to wear to school. Holden and Phoebe are kind of like a character version of how my siblings and I can be. When we are together we all talk in the same voice and finish each other’s sentences. Knowing that you have people to support you and unconditionally love you is something I would not change for the world. My life now is so different from when I was really little, with eight people in the house and the noise level through the roof. Now that there are only three people at home, me, my mom and my dad, I can see how Holden could get a little scared of growing up. The first night I slept in my home and all my sisters had moved out and my brother was off to college, was the scariest night I’ve ever had. There were no sounds of people trying to fall asleep or my sister, Anne, sitting at the end of my bed telling me every detail of her day. I had missed them before they were even gone. With everyone going off in their different directions and meeting the loves of their lives, I felt like I was


being left behind. For someone who thought they knew so much about family, there are so many more lessens that I have yet to learn. I think Holden’s relationship with Phoebe really opened up my eyes to how my close knit family is slipping through my fingers into a whole new dimension. “I’ll get you out of a jam,” one of my mom’s many punch lines. If I come to my mom with a problem she is already on her feet ready to fix it. She really is supermom and my “catcher in the rye”. Holden told Phoebe he wanted to catch kids before they fell off the ledge into danger. I know my mom will be there to catch me and if she doesn’t make it in time she will sure be there to pick up the pieces. I can see her now scrubbing the walls to get rid of the curses written there by stupid kids. My mom used to tell me I made her headaches go away. So when she lay sick on the couch, I would sit on the floor in front of her willing the pain to go away. It was things like that that made me feel as if I was giving something in return for all she does for me. I can say that I truly have the best mom anyone could ever imagine. She is there when I’m up, there when I’m down, and she knows when to put her foot down and when to give me freedom. I don’t think my mom could even comprehend the idea of sending her kids to a boarding school so she wouldn’t have to look at their faces every day. My mom says that looking into the face of your child is the most rewarding experience. It was always us against the world in my family. We were always the underdog so any chance we get to support someone unlikely to win, we are there. I can see how everyone would be a phony to Holden. I was brought up to not trust anyone. The underdog is usually the person that does their own thing or has a sense of individuality. In a perfect world I could say that I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but that isn’t the case. Even if I am hurt by what “phony” people say, at the end of the day I can get over it. My dad wouldn’t have it any other way. Strength and courage are things that have been present in all the men and women in my family. My mom’s side was strong in the arts and my dad’s side was made up of soldiers. I walk past the picture of my great-


grandfather in his military uniform every morning. Every once in awhile I’ll stop and just look at it. Seeing his character and the way he held himself makes me appreciate my life and the people that fought to give it to me. Being yourself, and true to yourself, is not a hard to understand concept in my family. If you were to put my life next to Holden’s, I think some things would cross but most would be different. Getting an insider’s look at the life of someone so different from me gave me a better perspective of my own life. I had never really thought of what time means. Seeing the last box full of my sister’s things close, felt like the end of a chapter of our little story. When I was little I used to live vicariously through my sisters’ lives, like Holden did with his brother Allie, who passed away. They were the superheroes and princesses that I looked up to, not the ones from television. “If a body catch a body coming through the rye”, sang the little boy that Holden saw on the sidewalk. My mom catching me when I fall down can go something to the tune of this song. I won’t ever have to worry about waking up tomorrow without my faith, traditions, and family. They are there and they always will be.


Catcher Essay