Author's Note: Written for nycscribbler for Yuletide 2012.
Standing in her kitchen one morning, she traces her finger along the contours of the sun-faded road atlas, tracing the highways that connect the cities to the towns, and to each other. The interstates are being built mile by cement-covered mile. Soon, it will be easier to get from where she is to where she came from - tiny little Maycomb, a speck on the Alabama map, tucked squarely between the county roads. It's her speck, and she still feels possessive feelings toward it, regardless of how many years it's been now.
It's not so tiny anymore, not when she can see the devastation that wrecks the region on the nightly news. Not when she can wake up in the morning and read in the Inquirer, over her morning coffee, about her childhood hometown. It's next to articles about the memorials people have put up for Medgar Evers in various cities, as well as what the state government in Harrisburg is debating passing into law. Not when she can hear Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley talk about Maycomb in the same breath as President Kennedy's speech in Berlin earlier that day. Maycomb, and other towns like it, are larger than life in the American consciousness.
No one's making Presidential speeches in Maycomb these days. The kind of speeches that the media would report on, instead of only focusing on the negatives of her beloved town.
No one that the world would listen to, anyway.
It's not like the old days, when her father Atticus - God rest his soul - would be able to speak to the citizens, with the certain voice and moral clarity that guided her through childhood.
He had commanded a position of respect in Maycomb. He was the moral center of the town, other residents sought and valued his opinion, even if they chose not to listen. He would be the one to take charge of the situation. Except that he couldn't. He would be the one that the world would listen to. Except, now, he was silent.
She feels insulated in her little bubble, here in a small suburb of Philadelphia. She migrated north with the summer warmth when she finished school and had never got around to making the return trip for more than a week or two at a time. It wasn't that she didn't like Maycomb anymore, but with the upbringing she and Jem had, either the town would have to change, or they would. The decision was clear, when put in those terms.
She presses a ladle to the inside of her palm, looking out the window, seeing the hubbub of a neighborhood full of children starting their play for the day, warmed by the late June sun. For a moment she can see herself and Dill among the faces of the children running in the streets, trampling Claudette's peonies next door. Some things never change, after all.
Debbie would be awake soon, then, if the other children were already at play.
At the thought of her daughter's name, almost as though she has the power to summon her forth by wish alone - a talent that Calpurnia had probably wished for when Scout herself was a girl - Debbie runs into the kitchen, dressed for a day of play. Her arms swing from side to side and she has an impish grin on her face as she looks up at her mother. "G'mornin'," she says, her eyes blinking open and the last bits of sleep dropping from her face. "can I go outside and play with Josie today? Please? Her momma said she'd take us to the pool today and go swimming, and I wanna go, and please." She holds out the last word for what feels like an eternity.
Scout laughs and ruffles her daughter's hair. "You may. Tell Josie's mother that I'll bring the corn muffin recipe by later she wanted."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Debbie kisses the side of her cheek and hugs her, before running for the door. "See you tonight!"
The schools are beginning to talk about how to integrate here, something that she never thought she'd live to see the day. She knows that it's a stretch, but she hopes that maybe one day Debbie's friends can have any color skin in the rainbow and that would be alright. That it would be a perfectly normal and acceptable thing for Josie to be black or white. She's seen how far this country has come, and she can see how far it has still yet to go.
People like her daughter give her hope. Hope that maybe one day, that vicious cycle could be broken. Hope that one day, she could see other sorts of stories told on the news other than the same sad, sordid story repeated again and again, only with the particulars of names and locales changed.
With her husband off at work and Debbie out to play, she settles down on the couch. Her soap opera wouldn't be on for a few hours, so there's nothing in particular that needs doing right away.
She pulls out a book from her bag. One of the mothers at Debbie's school had surreptitiously passed it onto her during the last PTA meeting of the year.
"Read this when you're alone," she'd said in a hushed whisper, and yet, she's never gotten around to reading it. Maybe because she's never really been alone. Better late than never. So she folds her feet under herself, settles into the crush of throw pillows, and begins to read - "The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring..."
Her fingers trace over the page, as she reads; her fingers soak in the words that speak to some buried part of her soul, giving voice to things she never thought to utter out loud. She knows where she comes from, and now, she can see the vision of where she is going - taking Dill and Debbie along for the ride.
Atticus wouldn't want her to bend her back into the storm and snap in two. He'd want her to be a proud bastion standing tall in her convictions. He set her on the right path in her life; if he could see her now, she would hope that he would be proud of how she turned out.
There's more than one way to change the world.
That's the way her father would have wanted her to see it.