Harper Lee passed away yesterday morning at the age of 89.
To Kill A Mockingbird, published in 1960, was on the summer reading list between my eighth and ninth grades. I procrastinated as long as possible with the reading which was not to my liking at the time. What else was on the list is beyond my recollection. My father let me use his chair and ottoman in my parents’ bedroom. I had watched him since I could remember as those were his place of study that got him through college and law school following the war and my arrival on the scene.
Perhaps it was the epigraph that captured me from the start. Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. Charles Lamb. My father was a lawyer and it was his career that had taken us from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington DC and then to Dallas, Texas where I had been since the fourth grade.
I was thirteen years old that summer and if the epigraph had grabbed me, the first words took me captive.
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.
To this day the smell and the texture of that chair, finishing that book and the silent declaration that I would become a writer are ever-present.
Blessings to you Harper Lee for your great gift!