Sunday, June 23, 2013

RePost - Tazi's Corner #7: Searching For Atticus, By Guest Writer Tazi's Mommie

Hello Readers!

I am taking a vacation day, and instead of leaving Mommie in charge of this week's edition of Tazi's Corner (because she might mess it up on me!), I have decided to print a classic edition that I know was successful. Enjoy the "freepeat".


Snuggles from AC,

Tazi's Corner
Life As Your Pet Sees It!

Searching For Atticus
by Guest Writer Tazi's Mommie

I consider myself to be a Writer, not only because it is what I have done professionally for so many years, but because once upon a time I made a living doing it. How many people are lucky enough to be able to say that? How many people are lucky enough to have a reason to induce a sugar-fueled madness through a Hershey bar and a large bottle of Mountain Dew, let alone induce this stupor at the office? My old boss used to tell me to do what I must to keep my creativity flowing. The sacrifices I would make!

Over time, even sugar is not enough to take a wrecking ball to writer's block; sometimes, a different kind of inspiration is needed. Who inspires me to write? The most influential man in my life - as a writer and as a person - is not a real person at all, but a literary character named Atticus Finch.

Ironically, Atticus came into my life the same summer my real father left it; the summer I was 12-years-old. I remember that summer well; it was the season that followed the spring that my dog got hit by a car. Rascal lived, minus her lower-left hindquarter, and her resilience taught me that it was true what people say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. She learned how to run like the wind on only three legs when it came time to chase after me on my bike, as well as how to play the part of the brave invalid when in view of neighbors with dog treats. The world may have shattered a bone or two in her body, but it did not break her spirit. I wish I could say I had the same emotional fortitude as my dog did that summer, but that would almost be a lie – almost; because at some point that summer I became acquainted with Atticus Finch. Who knew that a summer reading assignment would come to have such an influence on my life?

The school bell rang shortly after we had received our reading assignments, dismissing us to an awaiting ice cream truck and a world of summer freedoms; our summer homework assignments already forgotten, if just for the moment – our parents would see to it that we promptly remembered them. Although our choices for entertainment were endless; our reading selections were not. Accustomed to the usual Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume stories of our childhood past, we were a bit frightened by what the seventh grade had in store for us, as our assigned options appeared to reflect the démonté of our childhood.

I can still recall my friend Rachel repetitively droning on about how she planned to read To Kill a Mockingbird because she had heard it was a really good book. She could not tell me anything about the story and I, who was making my way through the anthologies of Stephen King and J.R.R. Tolkien, thought the title To Kill a Mockingbird sounded far too much like the children’s poem “Who Killed Cock Robin?” I bought the book anyway because compared to my other choices – The Grapes of Wrath, The Old Man and the Sea and Animal Farm – it seemed to be the least offensive to my pre-teen sensibilities. I considered myself to be far too mature to read about talking animals! Once in hand I promptly decided that To Kill a Mockingbird was not worth my time. This opinion was based on the book’s plain, un-illustrated, mustard-yellow cover. Yes, bibliophile that I was (and still am), I judged a book by its cover.

My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird – now creased and careworn – sat on my bedroom desk until the start of August which was when I realized that, like it or not, my mother was not going to allow me to buy the Cliff’s Notes version of it; the local librarian looked positively apoplectic when I had asked if she had a copy of the shelves. Already miserable because my father had decided to take Paul Simon’s advice and “slip out the back, Jack” I figured my summer could get no worse. I opened to the first page and read these words: “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”

“My brother Jem,” I thought. “Isn’t Jem a girl’s name?” At the time Jem and the Holograms was Hasbro’s answer to Mattel’s Barbie. I read a little further and discovered that the character of Scout was a girl and grew curious as to how people down South lived. Being a native New Englander, I had only heard stories of the Deep South; none of them all that kind to Confederates. As I got deeper and deeper into the tome that was my summer reading assignment, something inside me stirred. My child-like sense of justice – of right and wrong being either/or but never both – flared inside of me. Why did these people want to hurt Atticus? What was wrong with them? They were supposed to be his friends! Why were they siding against Tom Robinson, an innocent man “whose only true sin was pity for white woman”?

By the time I reached the end of the book I was so disgusted with Maycomb County that the enormity of what “Boo” Radley had done completely escaped me – which is why I read To Kill a Mockingbird again the very next summer; and the summer after that; and the summer after that; and every summer to this day. It was on or around my twelfth reading of the book that I caught on to the fact that Jem did not kill Bob Ewell. I cannot understand why I did not catch on sooner. Perhaps it was my outrage at the sense of injustice I felt; perhaps it was my anger over being told (by native Alabamans) that not much has changed in Alabama since the Civil War, and that Harper Lee’s story could be as true today as it was when she wrote it. I think the real reason it took so long for me to process the truth about who killed Bob Ewell was that Atticus could not process it. Over the years, I had learned to look at Atticus as the father-figure I needed in my life. To me, Atticus was a God among men; His only weakness his blind love for his children. He was a man who believed in his children; a man who raised them to become the pillars of justice he sought for the future of humankind. To a child who had been abandoned by her father, Atticus made a fine surrogate; a living example of all that was good in a world full of ugliness.

I have spent the better part of my life searching for Atticus, inside and outside of myself. I have never giving in to the pessimistic view that such a person can only exist in fiction; that the real world would have jaded him by now, worn his ideals down to a stub of their original grace or corrupted him in one of the many political trade-offs that occur in order to make the business of politics run, and keep the politics of business in check. I know he is out there, though, for I have caught glimpses of him. It is these glimpses that keep my hopes alive. I know that Atticus lives; he lives in the hearts and the minds of all who seek to emulate him.

It was the summer of my seventeenth reading of To Kill a Mockingbird that a young boy I watched over picked up a copy of it for himself. He was eleven years old, a year younger than I was when I first felt the magic of Harper Lee’s masterpiece, and like me he was too young to process all of the goings-on in the world that Atticus, Jem, and Scout inhabited. Small for his age, he curled in my lap and cried at the injustice of Tom Robinson’s conviction and death; at the blatant prejudice that engulfed the human psyche. As he dried his tears, he looked up at me with watery eyes and said, “When I grow up I want to be just like Atticus!” Holding back tears of pride, I kissed his forehead; rocked him gently; and told him I could think of no nobler calling. To this day, I still cannot.

--Tazi's Mommie

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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