Chapter 13

 

            Aunt Alexandra had Calpurnia put her bags in the front bedroom.  The next thing she did was to tell me to stop scratching my head.  I asked her if she was just here for a visit and she told us that she and Atticus had decided that she should come stay for awhile.  “We decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence.  It won’t be many years, Jean Louise, before you become interested in clothes and boys—“

            I thought many things to myself like the fact that I had Cal and that I wouldn’t be interested in boys for many years and that I would never be interested in clothes.  But I kept my mouth shut. 

            Later that afternoon Atticus came home.  He told us that they had decided it was best for Aunt Alexandra to stay with us.  I knew that it was more her idea than it was Atticus’s.  She had a way of deciding what was best for the family.

            Everyone in Maycomb welcomed Aunt Alexandra.  Miss Maudie baked a cake, Miss Rachel had her over for coffee, and Mr. Nathan Radley came in the front yard and said he was glad to see her. 

            Life resumed as if she had always lived with us.  Aunt Alexandra never missed a chance to point out the shortcomings of others.  Everyone in Maycomb seemed to have a Streak:  A Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak.  She was also very occupied with heredity:  who came from what family.  I had received the impression the Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.

            Some afternoons Aunty had the Maycomb ladies over.  “Jean Louise, come speak to these ladies.”

            When I came to the doorway, Aunt Alexandra looked like she almost regretted calling me over because I usually was mud-splattered or dirty.

            “Speak to your Cousin Lily,” she said one afternoon, when she had trapped me in the hall.

            “Who?” I said.

            “Your Cousin Lily Brooke,” said Aunt Alexandra.

            “She our cousin?  I didn’t know that.”

            Aunt Alexandra managed to smile to Cousin Lily that conveyed a gentle apology to her and a firm disapproval to me.  I knew I was in for it when Cousin Lily Left.

            That night Atticus came into Jem’s room where we both were.  He was uncomfortable and tried to tell us something.  “Your aunt has asked me to try and impress upon you and Jean Louise that you are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations gentle breeding –“  Atticus paused.  “Gentle bredding,” he continued, “and that you should try to live up to your name—“  Atticus persevered in spite of us:  “She asked me to tell you you must try to behave like the little lady and gentleman that you are.  She wants to talk to you about the family and what it’s meant to Maycomb County through the years, so you’ll have some idea of who you are, so you might be moved to behave accordingly,” he concluded at a gallop.

            Stunned, Jem and I looked at each other and then at Atticus who was very uncomfortable.  I started to cry because this was not my father who thought these things.  Aunt Alexandra told him to do this.  I went to hug him and worried that all this behavin’ was going to change things and I said so.  Atticus told me not to worry.

            I asked, “You really want us to do all that?  I can’t remember everything Finches are supposed to do…”

            “I don’t want you to remember it.  Forget it.”

            He left Jem’s room.