Holly Was a Hoodrat

Photo from cover of Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady
Photo from cover of Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady

Right now, one of my favorite songs is How a Resurrection Really Feels from The Hold Steady’s amazing Separation Sunday album. Today’s title is the first line of that song’s chorus and it was that line that caught my attention. I know a couple of Holly’s and they are so not hood rats. It was the rest of the song, however, that pulled me in. It’s the story of a girl named Hallelujah (but, “the kids, they called her Holly”) who has led a hard life and is finally coming out of the darkness. She stumbles into church during Easter Mass looking a bit worse for the wear (“with her hair done up in broken glass”) and asks “Father, can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?”

I love that imagery. I can see the priest looking around nervously, unsure what to do; I can feel the confusion of the congregation at what’s going on. And, I can hear the deacon losing his cool because she has interrupted the service. In my mind, Holly ignores all this and tells her story without pulling any punches. When she’s done, the congregation rises and embraces her, making her a part of their family. Of course, I realize the odds of that actually happening aren’t very good, but what can I say? I’m a romantic at heart.

After listening to the song a couple of times, I began to wonder what would a resurrection feel like? What would it look like? Of course, Christians generally relate resurrection to death; you know, that whole “resurrection of the saints thing. But, after I thought about it for a while, I decided that I agree with Craig Finn (The Hold Steady’s front man), a resurrection doesn’t require a physical death; a spiritual or emotional one will do just fine.

I’ve been pulled out of some rather dark holes over the years, but I’m not sure if my experience would qualify as a resurrection. That makes the question of what a resurrection feels like even more interesting to me. Don’t get me wrong,I count myself lucky that I don’t know the answer. And, I know just how lucky because I see people every day who aren’t as fortunate.

I am lucky in part because of an accident of birth. I was born a white man in a time and place that heavily favors white men. Add to that the fact that I am a member a middle class family that strongly believes in taking care of others and you begin to see what I mean by lucky. Because of these things, I have a built-in community with the means to ensure that I don’t know how a resurrection really feels.

There is a part of me that really wants to know what a resurrection feels like. But, I don’t want to know bad enough to give up my privileged existence and find out. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.