I was lucky enough to be able to see a screening of To Kill a Mockingbird at Charlottesville’s Historic Paramount Theater last night. As in the past, I was struck by the ease and closeness of Jem and Scout, the young siblings Harper Lee’s infamous novel. While To Kill a Mockingbird is most readily associated with its analysis of race relations in the south, I still always think first of Scout and Jem and the way that the two children fit together so seamlessly.
Perhaps it’s the timing of having seen the movie last night, and the thought that Drew (my brother, not my husband) et al are on the highway on their way here now, but I can’t help but think of my own luck in the sibling department, across the board, but since it was just Drew and me in those early years, I see Jem in him. With the 10 years that separate us, we have gone through a number of stages, and I cannot even begin to describe stage one other than to loosely title it, Unfettered Adulation (well, on my side…his title of those years might hum a slightly different tune!). Drew was a saint of a big brother to his mousy, very talkative and much younger little sister. I remember little pieces of the time before he went to college and really do melt some. Just the other day I slipped and banged my knee really hard, but in my head thought, “mah, it’s just a 2” and smiled a little–while rubbing my sore knee. The rating system was one of Drew’s genius–being something of a lifelong klutz, I have always been prone to accidents, and as a child I would fall and look to Drew to see if it rated high enough on the scale to get upset. “Amelia, you’re barely even bleeding! That’s not even a 5. You’re fine.” I believed him every time. He used it with integrity too–one time I fell on my aunt and uncles steep driveway and embedded a fair amount of gravel in my knee. I was, predictably, crying my eyes out by the time I got down to our house, and Coop took one look and said, “Great work! That’s an 8 for sure!” I remember sniffing and wiping my eyes and proudly saying something to the tune of, “You really think so? An 8? That’s pretty good huh? This is a good one!” as he started to pull the rocks out my knee. I still have the evidence of that fall on the face of my adult knee, and not to be terribly sappy, but there’s that typical childhood bittersweetness that comes with scars because they inevitably produce a story; this one tells of this big kid, the one I knew was a hero.
Seeing Drew Cooper now, in his dual roles as husband and father, I can’t help but feel a little bit like his baby sister again because his familiarity with his son comes so naturally, and in that ease, I remember the adoration that I had for him as something of a little squirt myself. Drew Walton and I talk about our future plans for children and Drew W, of course, always says that it’s better for boys to have big sisters, thinking of his own love for Ashley, but I can’t help countering with how perfect it is to be a little girl with a big brother to “beat you up” (never really happened, though pillow fighting was something of a nightly routine) and then save the day all at once. In the end, sometimes it’s just good to be second in line, because the one leading the way does all of the hard work, and the one trailing behind never really knows just how good she or he has it.