I just finished reading (not for the first time) Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. One of the characters is a girl called Mick Kelly. At the beginning of the book she is a tomboyish twelve, as the book ends she is fourteen. In between, she travels the no-man’s-land between childhood and being an adult. She travels mostly unsupervised and unguided, and there are any number of occasions where heartbreak or disaster lie in wait. For example, the day we meet her, she climbs to the top of an almost-finished house under construction, straddles the peak and has a cigarette, leaving her 18-month-old brother tied in a wagon in the care of the 6 year-old brother, down below. What, as they say, could go wrong?
A fair number of things do go wrong, not in this scene, but later. Up until almost the end of the story, Mick can recover by going to what she calls the inside room: “With her it was like there were two places — the inside room and the outside room. School and family and the things that happened every day were in the outside room . . . Foreign countries and plans and music were in the inside room. The songs she thought about were there . . . The inside room was a very private place. She could be in the middle of a house full of people and still feel like she was locked up by herself.”
When Mick drops out of school to take a job at Woolworth’s to help out her family, her tiredness seems to shut her out from the inside room. This invisible event seems like the saddest thing of all: Is this what it means, finally, to grow up?
I hope not. And yet when I look at pictures of myself as a child, I see something there that I miss, that I want, that I don’t think I will feel again in the same way.
While I was drawing this pic, I liked letting the story occupy my mind. Not immediately filling up my head with something else, some other story. Also, I couldn’t help thinking about my own forays onto rooftops and into houses under construction. CAVEAT/DISCLAIMER: It’s dangerous! DON’T DO IT! But if you find one that is safe (Flat. Or close to the ground. With a railing. Use your head.) it’s liberating in an interesting way. A door to the inside room.
I can’t believe I have never read that book. Now I must read it because of what you said about the inside room and outside room. I know these rooms.
My forays were not to the top of roofs. Mine took me beneath trees and rocks. I was a secret fort kind of child.
So, having read that one, I just started in on “The Member of the Wedding,” also Carson McC. First five pages, at least, are SO good. I think I read it as a teenager, and I think the amazingness of it was a little beyond me at that point.
Also: I think one can have both rooftops and forts. Perhaps the rooftops are still to come?
Stupendous. This is my favorite blog posting yet, LRP. For gawd’s sake, would you please bundle up all these exquisite gems and turn them into a book.
Sarah, I am betting you have some roof-sitting tales in your portfolio . . .
I love reading your musings coupled with such fine illustrations. I agree—these blog posts would make a lovely book!
Now to find a copy of “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. . .”
I didn’t want your posting to end so soon! I keep scrolling back to look at your illustration and think about you thinking about your childhood as you drew.
You know there’ll be a race to the library for “The Heart…” today.
one can only hope!
So did drawing that picture take you to the inside room?
drawing always does! But being online – – that can go either way.
Thanks again Lynne for such a lovely post. I always save this for last after reading all my other emails of the day (kind of like saving a nice crisp apple for the end of a meal).
Being just a bit older than Mick, I’ve though a lot about leaving my inside room behind and being engulfed by the outside one. It’s hard to know how much of my kid ways I should hold on to and when it’s time to let some of them go.
don’t do it, Emma! Hang on to that inside room. I still have mine, though it’s a little different than it was.
I read that book in sophomore year, and didn’t like it that much, through probably because I had to do a project on it. Now after what you said it occurs to me that there were those exquisite moments in the book, but I rushed through them when I read them that time. Now I’ll have to go back and check again, this time with a nice cup of tea and plenty of free time. 🙂
I read another book of hers, The Member of the Wedding, in high school and just re-read it recently. I think most of it went right past me in high school. A friend of mine said that maybe for a lot of us these early readings are like practice readings — we miss so much, but we have to start somewhere. And I think some important bits find their way into our minds.