Sunday, March 4, 2007
Meeting someone who loves the same books I do is like finding a long-lost friend. I feel like I know their soul. I felt that way when I read comments on To Kill a Mockingbird. Thoughts of this favorite book reminded me of another dear friend: Scout.
The first time I read the book I was 15. I read it mostly in the orthodontist's office, and while I sat on my bedroom floor wearing a strange balloon type bonnet that was our hairdryer. I got to know Jem, and Dill and Scout and Atticus so well I could feel them. There is no mistaking a real book, and although I had devoured books since I was 6, this was one of my first real ones. It seemed like I was in it, living in Maycomb during the depression, a child of the South with my first introduction to racism.
I reached the end of the book when Scout was walking Boo home, and I started sobbing. I loved these people, and I didn't want them to leave me. I had to stop reading. I saved the last couple of pages until an hour or so later when I had calmed down. Scout's memories on those pages are described with such tenderness. "It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy"...."It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk"..."Fall, and his children trotted to and fro"..."Winter, and his children shivered...silhouetted against a blazing house"...."Winter, and a man...walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog." It was like reading the whole book over again in just a few sentences.
I often re-read these paragraphs because they help me remember my childhood, too. I think of running barefoot down the burning, softened asphalt to catch the ice-cream truck; sitting on the screened-in porch late at night with the fragrance of lilacs floating on the breeze; the smell of the furnace on the first cold morning; the sour taste of Grampa's green apples, sprinkled with salt; watching clouds and squealing with delight to see a trail of smoke from a jet plane; laying on a blanket in the backyard, listening to my dad sing You Are My Sunshine as my Aunt Marie strums her ukelele. It all seems as far away and imaginary as the soap dolls in the tree. But it's part of me and inside me, as are Heck Tate and Aunt Maudie. I experienced it all.
Books help me recall chapters in my life. Characters have become old friends and their lives are entwined with mine. Being inside someone's mind is an intimate thing. It's like knowing their soul.