The Transformative Experience of Mary Badham

Flashback to Tuesday night. I still haven’t fully processed it. And it wasn’t necessarily the event, rather the impact being there had on me. And I pause to breathe.

In fact, procrastinating lol. Liz Gilbert says that we procrastinate in our writing from fear. I think that today, she is quite correct.

It has been an hour since that last sentence ;-). I have words whizzing through my brain, interweaving with emotions. Maybe rather than try to find the words to make it make sense to you (to me), I should just retell the experience.

The best moments of this trip have been the non-touristy ones. This night was one of those. I felt what it was like to live in this city. I saw what I could have access to. And it overwhelmed me.

I lined up with my ticket, as did many New Yorkers. There was conversation around minding spots for late friends and laughter as we all acknowledged it didn’t matter because seats were allocated. It was a very mixed crowd. A lot of parents with their children (adolescent). I was impressed and so jealous; how wonderful an experience to have as a teenager. To have access to book readings read by actresses who played the main character in the book. There were a lot of people who knew each other, so there was a lot of love in the room. I think this also overwhelmed me.

Belonging somewhere, where you didn’t often feel like a freak because the things that interest you, excite you, make you whole are so vastly different to so many other people. We were all there because of our love for a book. A book. Words written by another person. Words adapting to a book that really tell a life story. Not just a single life, but many lives. Words recording many lives’ stories. The power that words have when moulded together. The power to bring so many different people together in one spot, for an hour and a half, to share the magic that Harper Lee’s words originally ignited in all of our souls. What power. What magic. How overwhelming.

So I sat in my chair and a few renegade tears escaped.

Not sad tears. Just pure emotion.

And gratitude.

That I was here and that I could experience all of it.

How blessed is my life that I have a job that can afford me such wonderful opportunities.

I have made a lifelong dream come true, beyond anything I could ever have anticipated.

And this, this is what overwhelmed me, and made this night so emotional and so transformative.

Another break from writing.

Mary came on to the stage after being introduced by the director of a biography documentary about Harper Lee. These people all looked normal. They looked like all of us. Maybe I realised that it wasn’t a far flung idea that one day this sort of thing might become a part of my own reality. Maybe it was just the gnawing realisation that I have something worth saying, and worth hearing.

The applause didn’t stop, and she seemed genuinely humbled by it all, putting her hands together and bowing with them towards the audience.

She read from To Kill A Mockingbird, ably adopting Scout’s childhood voice. She read from Go Set A Watchman, ably adopting Scout’s adult voice.

We laughed in the funny places. We sighed and gasped in the other places. We could see the child Scout blossom into the woman Scout. Sadly, Mary is probably too old now to reprise her role as Scout, Jean Louise Finch, in any movie version of the new novel.

In the subsequent interview, Mary answered questions from the audience. She talked about her memories, few, of the filming. She talked about her love for Atticus and Tom (and the actors that portrayed them; each the embodiment of the values that their characters subscribed to), and how both men remained her Oreo fathers until they passed, along with her own father. She talked about the impact that making the film had on her life, and admitted to only recently reading the book, as a matter of necessity because she was asked to speak about it. She addressed the limitations for women from the South, and how there was always a public and private facade.

She was honest.

It was very refreshing. Things that she only remembered from photos she acknowledged. Hearing that the house from the film had been destroyed in wanton vandalism/arson brought tears to all of our eyes because her loss was so genuine.

It seemed real.

As much as she was coaxed, she revealed no spoilers. She knew that most had only bought Go Set A Watchman that day because it had only just been released. This impressed me. Respect.

For the individual experience that reading is.

And then it was over before I was ready for it to be over.

And I caught the subway home. Floating on proverbial air.

And I reflected, barely sleeping, and realised some personal truths.

I drafted two blog posts, very raw, and very authentic to me.

They will be posted soon. Probably reworked. Public viewing and all, an awareness of the varied readership here.

When I have the courage.

They are coming.

Thank you New York. I feel firmer in my direction. And I feel less like a freak.

For here in NYC, we are all our own freaks. It is nothing for Lauren and I to find ourselves singing Lean On Me in the subway with a man on the opposite platform until the train comes in. Yes, here we are all freaks.

Doing what we can.

5 thoughts on “The Transformative Experience of Mary Badham

  1. I had this same experience going to see Mitch albom in LA. Since I had contacted the producers etc before hand and told them I was travelling from Australia, had been teaching his books etc. I was granted a question to ask and a meet and greet. Best moment. Also, as you said, an awareness that ‘in another life’ these types of events could BE my life…I just don’t know if I could stand the excitement all the time. Glad your trip has been one of memories, revelations and new truths to add to the pile. I am enjoying watching you sift through your possibilities…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would have been amazing Jowen! I love his work. He gets it, whatever it is.

      I don’t think I could do it all of the time either, but the choice/opportunity would be staggering. I am enjoying the experience, making the most of it all. It is my city, or I came at the right time in my life.



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