On May 16th, 2009, Amy and I traveled to Monroeville AL to see the annual
local production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in the hometown of Harper Lee (and no,
we didn't see her). We DID meet and talk with Mary Badham, the actress who portrayed
"Scout" in the movie production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 1962. She spoke for about
2 hours and answered many questions. She spoke of growing up in the 60's in Birmingham
and I nodded many times. Later Amy and I went back to the Monroeville courthouse
to tour the museum there and met Ms. Badham once more (quite by accident!) and had a
nice personal chat. I told her I too grew up in B'ham of the 60's and we talked briefly
of the times. It was indeed a different era.
Harper Lee set her book in the 1930's but it was published in 1960. I remember
whispered discussions (this is from a child's memory and may well have been more about
the movie than the book). It only served to make me curious. The first time I read it I
did not understand much of it. I didn't quite understand much of the talk of Scottsboro
when Daddy talked of it either (Daddy was from Scottsboro) but I absorbed it and remember
being appalled by it.
Amy and I read "To Kill A Mockingbird" together in I think it was her 7th grade year.
We had lively discussions on the book. It became our favorite book. So when I saw in
the newspaper this year the ad for the production I wanted to go and she was all for it
too. We made a weekend of it. (Truman Capote was also from Monroeville but only spent
his younger years there - a neighbor of Harper Lee's). His childhood home later burned
and not much of it remains. (See photo). Dill is the character in the book based upon
The local production was quite good - Atticus was excellent. You can tell the community
takes great pride in the play and we shall try hard to attend again.
It is hard if you are not from Alabama to express what this book means to us. I know
it means much to people all over the world as it speaks to prejudice (and more) but
it is special to us. It is the life of the South - the good, the bad and the essence of Alabama.
Her wonderful people and her awful people (the same all over I know but the life here
is slower and well, you just have to live here to understand...). You wish you could do away
with the rednecks who hate and the racial prejudice and just leave the cakes and love (without
the calories of course) and sitting on the porch and families who care about each other,
long summer days (without the 120 degree heat that children don't seem to notice for some
reason). watermelon!, swimming holes, gardens (with no weeds of course), and I could go on
but I guess that might just have to wait. We still have sin here too.
I'm sure somehow Harper Lee saw this in Monroeville - the good and the bad and wrote
about her people there. It made a wonderful book. And a wonderful play.