The way we’re all talking about Atticus Finch, you’d think he was a real person! (What??? He’s not???)
OK, I’ll admit it: Atticus Finch holds a prominent place in my pantheon of heroes. His quiet strength, his wisdom, his temperance, his judicious parenting–and, of course, his moral courage in speaking truth to power, something very much in short supply today–all have endeared me to him.
But there’s more: When a certain special person in my life–whom, in the interest of preserving her anonymity and allowing her to save face, I will call “my daughter”–was in the eighth grade, she started calling me by my first name. And the more formal version, one usually reserved for my mother and certain disappointed elementary school teachers–Michael.
Characteristically, I had not a clue what that was about. So I did all the useless things we parents from time immemorial do–I scolded her, I sent her to her room, I charged her a dollar every time she did it, none of which, of course, “worked.” And so I gave up–and hoped it would go away. It never really did, although a few other appellations are thrown in every now and again by “my daughter” to spice things up, terms of endearment that remind me that I’m getting old but that she loves me anyway.
Quite a few years later, the connection between the use of my first name and a certain book read in the eighth grade occurred to me, and I entertained the fantasy that in “my daughter’s” eyes I was akin to Atticus Finch. As we remember, Atticus’s daughter, Scout, would address him by his first name only. Wow, I thought–I’ll take it! If this special person in my life sees in me the qualities of Atticus Finch, well, she can call me anything she wants.
But now they tell me Atticus Finch’s reputation has been besmirched in this apparent first draft of what would become To Kill a Mockingbird. No matter. I will read and no doubt enjoy Go Set a Watchman, regardless of the apparent jadedness, and worse, that has befallen the elderly Atticus. And I will continue to entertain the fantasy that “my daughter” saw me as her very own Atticus Finch, pre-Watchman version.