When I was a kid, I was shy – miserably shy.
I would spend hours in my room reading and playing board games or cards with my sister. If I went somewhere with my dad I always stood behind him and let him do the talking. Even if the questions were addressed to me.
The beginning of each school year was horrible. It meant being with people I didn’t know. I literally made myself sick worrying about going.
Unfortunately the shyness followed me well into my teens. Really, well beyond my teens.
In 11th grade while I was agonizing over starting school my father said; “at some point you’re going to have to learn to talk for yourself.” Unfortunately, that didn’t come for many years, especially with any confidence.
While I didn’t learn to talk for myself, I did learn to “adopt” the confident personas of characters in the books I read to help me through difficult social interactions. One of my favorites was Scout Finch. We were both tomboys and had pixie haircuts. (Although I doubt hers was done by a drunk aunt who had a hard time with the bangs, resulting in almost no bangs) Scout was able to talk to anyone. She was adventurous. And she had a dad I could relate to. Atticus Finch and my father looked nothing alike, but both were smart, strong and spent countless hours talking to their kids on any subject.
To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book to thoroughly engage me. In it I lived the adventures of Scout and Jem, wondered if I had a Bo Radley living in my neighborhood, and like Scout, I didn’t see people by color. I’ve lost count how many times over these many years I read it, or watched the movie. So no surprise I was excited when it was announced “Go Set a Watchman” was to be published. I couldn’t wait to read it!
Then just as quickly, I was sorry I ever picked it up. How could Harper Lee kill Jem? How could she have Scout leave her hometown? How could she make the strong and righteous Atticus Finch a racist? What happened to the family I knew? What was Harper Lee thinking?
And now Harper Lee is gone. They’ll be no third book to make everything right again.
RIP Miss Lee. Thank you for enriching my life and letting my imagination soar.