Jean Louise

From adventofreason’s Xanga Archives . . .

jeanlouise

I will probably always remember those days with the bittersweet sepia color of a gracefully aging photograph.  Bitter because I saw that truth doesn’t always win and that ignorance and poverty can turn anger into hate.  And, yes it was also sweet.  Sweet and fragrant like the camellias of  my childhood that dripped their snowy petals onto the sun-dappled lawns.

I found, if not friendship, something akin to it in the most unlikely of places.  Not too many summers after we met, he died.  We all paid our respects to him, but were mindful of his shy ways.

Many years later, Father retired from law and continued to hold at bay the never-ending requests that he run for public office.  I remember that the only time I ever saw him cry, was the day that a misguided man ended the life of another; one who had a dream.  Even my brother, ever the grown up, coughed into his hand and took several passes across his eyes with his handkerchief.

He, my older brother, his hopes of being a football hero dashed, followed in our father’s footsteps and may one day run for governor.  We all believe he will succeed.

The sweet friend of my youth never did marry me, though he continues to flit in and out of my life, bringing with him his odd mixture of pathos and humor.  He is part flamboyant thespian, part wounded spirit.

In the years closely following that summer, we began to see past the facade of our own genteelness and saw an ugliness that we became ashamed of.  I think we became better people that summer; all of us.  I believe we did learn, after all, how to climb into another person’s skin and walk around in it.

 

*Although this piece is an  original piece by me, and created from my imagination, it is based on the incredible characters created by Harper Lee in her breathtaking novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  This is what is referred to as metafiction, whereby I have inserted thoughts into characters created by someone else

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“Finders were keepers unless title was proven”

mockingbird

Rarely did I keep a secret from my brother; he could tell by the guilty look on my face that I harbored something that I wouldn’t share.  At first, he would act as though he didn’t care and then, as time wore on, he would threaten to beat me up if I didn’t talk.  He was not above resorting to the occasional Indian sunburn if the situation were deemed necessary.

Second grade had begun and it was as terrible as I knew it would be and could have done without it, but Atticus assured me it would not, as I feared, “ruin me for life.”  It was on those walks to and from school that Jem and I began to find gifts in the knothole by the old Radley place.  Usually nothing would convince us to go that close without  a jeer from Dill, but everyday, we looked to see what might be waiting for us.  Even after Mr. Nathan filled that knothole with cement, we would reflexively turn our heads as we walked past.

I never told Jem about the key.  It was small and, to my relief and dismay, much too small to be a door key.  My imagination, kindled by Jem, Miss Stephanie Crawford and even Dill, had me certain it would unlock the cage to a half-crazed Boo Radley, holding bloody scissors and surrounded by newspapers.  I think part of the reason I never showed it to Jem was because he would want to investigate. Admitting I was too scared would have resulted in unrelenting brotherly aggravation and condescending taunts of being such a girl. That would have led to blackmail and using Dill as his co-conspirator.  So, for one of the few times in my young life, I kept my mouth shut.  Partly in self-preservation and, to an extent, because it was mine.  My secret.  My mystery.

After Mr. Arthur saved Jem’s life that night, I put the key away, no longer allowing my head to fill with fearful thoughts or hopes of buried treasure.  I think I finally understood that sometimes a key is just a key and that rather than let it lie forgotten in a drawer, it was given to a child as a simple gift.  Perhaps a way of saying “I see you.”  In the hands of a child, that key unlocked more than doors or hidden treasures.

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