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Being Scout

An encounter with my daughter's namesake.

By Cheryl WrayPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

Full disclaimer ahead of this story: My youngest daughter's name is Scout, but it also isn't.

Actually, her given name is Sydney. And while a lovely name, "Sydney" is only really used by her grandparents and when I really need to get her attention in a loud voice.

While selecting her name 17 years ago, my husband announced: "I'm just going to call her Scout anyway," and so it is. We both individually list "To Kill a Mockingbird" as our favorite book, and collectively agree that our Scout could have no better namesake than Harper Lee's creation. So, she's called Scout an approximate 95% of the time.

When my Scout was just four, she and I took her oldest sister to the downtown public library in our hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to do research for a high school term paper. While she ran to the stacks, Scout and I lingered in the lobby where I quickly noticed signs for special "To Kill a Mockingbird" promotions celebrating its recognition as the state book of the year.

We walked over to one of the tables displaying brochures and bookmarks and told the man standing there, "This is my little Scout." He smiled and told us that the "real" Scout would be arriving soon at the library.

Mary Badham, the Alabama actress who played Scout in the classic movie rendition of the book when she was just 10-years-old, would be arriving at any moment to present a lecture on her experiences.

I counted my lucky stars for coming to the library on that very day, and soon saw her walk through the main library entrance.

She looked exactly like Scout from the movie--just 50 years older.

I could imagine her sitting next to Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch; I could picture her responding to the instruction in the courtroom balcony: "Jean Louise [her "real" name in the novel], stand up. Your daddy's passin'."

She stopped to talk to a few people, then walked right over to us and knelt down on Scout's level.

I told Mrs. Badham my daughter's name and she said to her: "Well, hello Scout. I'm also named Scout," and went on to compliment her on her pretty dress, telling her that she had a dress almost just like it when she was little.

She told her to "be good and sweet," and then hugged her.

I thanked her profusely, gave her a hug myself, and she was on her way.

Scout doesn't remember the encounter, but she knows where her name comes from; she's listened to me read the book out loud to her; she's watched the movie on her own; she's had countless people (friends, strangers, Starbuck baristas) ask where her name came from; she knows what Scout represents to us.

And, in some sort of beautiful life-imitates-art situation, my now 17-year-old Scout is so very similar to the fictional character.

She's inquisitive and intelligent; she's kind; she's concerned about justice; she'll wear a dress when she has to, but is more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt; she's a barefoot adventurer; she's an old soul.

As she approaches her senior year of high school I can't help but be nostalgic of the year she started school as a cute, precocious kindergartner; she learned to write her name that year and was often torn between her two monikers. One day her teacher sent home a note, with two worksheets attached to it; on one sheet, she'd signed her name "Sydney" and on the other "Scout."

Her teacher instructed me: "We need to have her choose. I'm getting confused." (I could imagine her teacher's good-natured smile as I read it.)

Today, my daughter's fully embraced the name, and when asked what she prefers to be called quickly answers, "Scout!"

"I know Sydney's a good name," she told me recently, "but Scout just feels right."

The decision pleases me (and my husband) more than she can possibly imagine.

She's grown into the name that has such meaning to us--for her fictional namesake reminds us what our children are capable of and that we, as parents, must always model compassion.

"Be good and sweet," Scout told my Scout, on that day many years ago.

Simple wisdom worth repeating--and a statement that I've seen fulfilled in front of my eyes.


About the Creator

Cheryl Wray

I'm a trained journalist who now dreams of writing fiction.

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