“Next morning I awoke, looked out the window and nearly died of fright. My screams brought Atticus from his bathroom half-shaven.
‘The world’s endin’, Atticus! Please do something–!’ I dragged him to the window and pointed.
‘No it’s not,’ he said. ‘It’s snowing.'”
–To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
When I was a freshman in high school, I was scouring the shelves of the school library for something new to devour. I loved books ever since I could remember and I missed reading for fun. I ran my finger down spine after spine until it landed on one. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee. Huh.
I knew of the book. I’d heard mixed reviews: It was boring. It was pretty good. It was a classic. I picked it up and thought ‘what’s the harm?’
Three days later I closed the back cover and smiled.
We were at my grandpa’s convalescent home and sitting with him while he got his lunch. I set the book down on the table and my mom looked at me with a small smile.
“That didn’t take long,” she said affectionately, no doubt remembering the few nights my light didn’t go out until two am. I immediately launched into a summary of the book before vowing to read it again.
I have. Six times now.
Most of them were school assignments. Analyzing the use of racism and gender roles and Atticus Finch’s role in American literature. A few times they were passing time reads, brought on by no homework and a pause in my demanding theater schedule. Just last Thursday, I pinned up the article announcing an adaptation making it’s way to the 2017-2018 Broadway season before diving into Maycomb of 1933-35 once again. I’ve watched the movie twice in the last week and swooned over Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Atticus Finch. Needless to say, I adore the book.
And just this morning, I heard the news that Harper Lee had passed at the age of 89. I wasn’t sobbing, fall-on-the-floor upset. But my heart mourns for the woman who brought me the book that has a special place in my heart. Harper Lee gave me a girl like me to look upon and find solace in.
Scout and I share numerous similarities. We grew up knowing how to read since before we could remember. I remember getting angry with my friend in kindergarten when she made up the words to a story we were reading that I knew wasn’t what was printed on the page. We both had older siblings that, although close to, began to drift away from us. We suffered the loss of those close to us: Scout’s mother and my grandpa when I was 16. I regard my father as very Atticus-esque. Despite loving my sister and I very much, he was a man that showed it by “courteous detachment” and expected us to conduct ourselves with maturity and politeness at all times. He is a man that showed his love in little and quiet ways, much like Atticus’ quiet mannerisms that Jem and Scout knew meant he adored them.
The point of this long and sentimental post is that I am forever grateful to Miss Harper Lee for giving me the characters of Maycomb, Alabama. For the length of 281 pages, I learned to step into someone else’s shoes and see life through their eyes.
Thank you Miss Lee.