In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 25, 2005 / 16 Iyar, 5765

Jeannette Walls' recipe for lemonade

By Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | On the eighth day, when G-d was handing out whining privileges, he came upon Jeannette Walls and said, "For you, an unlimited lifetime supply."

Apparently, Walls declined His kind offer.

Best known as MSNBC's "Scoop" gossip columnist, the glamorous Walls is more recently author of the blockbuster memoir "The Glass Castle." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

If anyone of our age has a claim to self-pity or a right to complain, Walls surely has few competitors.

Instead, she's a human smackdown for people obsessing about life's unfairness. Distilling Walls' more eloquent words, her story's moral might go something like this:

Life's hard, it ain't fair, grow up.

On a higher plane, her book is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the power of forgiveness, and the recently faded truth that family love trumps all else — including the best government programs, the latest mood-altering pill, or the most empathetic therapy group.

After talking to Walls, I can say without fear of contradiction that she hasn't wasted a nanosecond examining the depths of her navel. Rather, she has gathered the tattered threads of her impoverished childhood and spun the sort of golden life to which lesser mortals feel entitled.

Walls' story begins with one of those throat-clutching, Good-G-d-Martha! leads about which journalists fantasize: "I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster."

Suffice it to say, one does not stop reading there.

Walls then recounts a picaresque childhood under the misguided lights of her father Rex — a brilliant, visionary, vagabond drunk who gives his children stars for Christmas (they pick one from the desert sky under which they sleep on blankets) and promises to build a glass castle someday — and mother Rose Marie, an artist who never sells a painting, yet sustains a Maynard G. Krebs aversion to steady work.

Told from the perspective of the child she was, Walls' memoir reads like a protective services file, almost too bad to be true. She and her three siblings forage for food in garbage cans, wear ragged clothes without buttons, share 4 inches of water to bathe once a week, sleep in cardboard boxes, fend off various randy relatives, and learn the art of "skedaddle" — skipping town when bills come due.

Walls' mother maddeningly characterizes these homeless periods as "adventures" and proudly confesses to being an "excitement addict." Daddy Rex, meanwhile, drinks, wanders, and steals the children's money. In one of his less charming moments, he uses 13-year-old Jeannette to distract a groping greaseball in a bar while he takes him for $80 at the pool table.

With just those facts, most would dial 911 for intervention, and send Walls to foster care and therapy. After treating you to a belly laugh, Walls would scoff at the notion. For starters, she's too busy for therapy and otherwise too much in love with her wacky parents — especially Rex, who called his daughter "Mountain Goat" — to understand your point.

What Walls did understand early on was that life is what you make it. Thus, at 17 she abandoned her family's three-room West Virginia shanty and took a bus to New York City, where she finished high school, got scholarships to Barnard, wound up working for Esquire and New York magazines, and now for MSNBC.

Moreover, life is never as simple as the mere facts, and the human spirit, like love, can't be quantified. The soul of Walls' book isn't about Dumpsters, or hunger, or sexual molestation. It's about survival, transcendence, family love and the balm of humor.

Donate to JWR

My favorite scene has Walls and her father lying on the front porch with Rex pointing out that their house rests on the highest point in town and, though it leans, leaks and has no plumbing, is immune from the floods that plague everyone else. The trick to real estate, he intones, is "location, location, location." Whereupon the two erupt into gales of laughter.

The trick to Walls' life, she says, was love.

"My father was such a scoundrel, but I loved him dearly and never had any doubt in my mind that he loved me."

For that statement alone, fathers' groups soon will be erecting statues of Walls. While no sane person would endorse the Wallses' parenting model, there's more to growing up than having 23 pairs of sneakers, as Walls puts it.

Sometimes our best stuff comes from our worst days. And besides, says Walls, sounding exactly like her mother: "Every bad situation has a good aspect to it."

It's all in how you look at it.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

Kathleen Parker Archives

© 2005, Tribune Media Services