It started out as a mother trying to help her daughter’s first year of high school begin on a smooth note.
When I noticed our local, historic Fargo Theater was going to be showing “To Kill a Mockingbird” last week, I put it on my “to do list,” knowing my middle daughter had been assigned the book for summer reading by her future English teacher, and that the movie, though old and severely outdated, might help the story come alive even more for her.
And, well, it wasn’t completely altruistic. I like stories too, and am especially fond of classics. I also am intrigued by Harper Lee and her one and only published work.
I was excited as we grabbed our buttered popcorn and headed to the front of the theater, which was filling in quickly, the movie about to begin. As the black and white film played, I did a quick Facebook update, noting our Thursday night adventure. And my mom responded right away:
“Your dad’s favorite book! Wow, I would have loved being there.”
How had I forgotten? But I had. In the midst of thinking about my daughter’s English class project, it had slipped past me that Dad had chosen this book, among all those he’d read in his study of literature, as his very favorite.
I was so grateful for the reminder, because suddenly I was watching the film not just through my own eyes but through Dad’s. What were the elements of the story he most liked, I wondered? What drew him so close to this story? For the rest of our time at the theater, I felt Dad nearby, and during part of it, tears even began flowing there in the dark as I connected with the spirit of this man who was such a big and beautiful part of my life.
It’s his birthday month, and also the month of his and my mother’s wedding anniversary, August 21.
So I can’t help but have Dad on the brain anyway, and then this story…and seeing it there with my daughter…it just sealed the deal.
I thought of how I’d grown up on a reservation, and how the color of one’s skin seemed so insignificant to my parents. Why would they have settled there otherwise?
And I thought of story and how much story moved my father, and how much story has always moved me. His respect for story was so strong that it couldn’t help but spill into the lives of his two little girls, who listened with awe as he shared bedtime tales about one-eyed monsters and the dinosaurs who used to visit his childhood home in New Rockford, N.D.
It wasn’t until after the movie that I shared with my daughter how the story had been her Grandpa Beauclair’s favorite. “I was actually thinking about that,” she said. “Atticus reminded me of Grandpa.”
It’s not an exact match but there is some resemblance. The black hair, the glasses, to be sure.
The intellect. The ability to overlook the things that separate us physically to get at the heart of a person.
The way he drew his kids near.
In my childhood years, I was a little like Scout — always the little sister, always seeking adventure, always curious, and hopefully standing up for justice, just because it seemed the right thing to do.
Yes, the story has many parallels with my life, and in the remembering, my sister reminded me about a book we’d given Dad a while back for Christmas. She then sent Mom on a hunt for the book, and as Mom tells it, it didn’t take long for her to find it in a prominent place in their home. “I think Dad led me straight to it,” she said.
So we’re reading, watching, remembering how much our father and husband loved story and the characters that bring it to life, and the powerful forces of human nature — the quest for what’s good, right and just despite all of our and the world’s imperfections — that have always and hopefully always will motivate us to create a better existence for all.
I’m still learning from my Dad and about my Dad, and I’m finding this happening most of all through appreciating all the more the things that moved his heart.
I can honestly say I haven’t lost Dad at all. He’s as close as ever through these things, and I love him all the more because of it.
And last but not least, to my mother on the day before her special day of remembering a long and fruitful marriage: Happy Anniversary!
Q4U: What are your associations with this story, or others that connect you to a loved one in your life?