If you have ever read the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, then you know it is set in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. What you may not know is that it is based on the town of Monroeville, Alabama, which just so happens to be my father's home town. Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville and was known as Nelle to those who knew her in town. That included my grandmother who taught Nelle (aka Harper) in the 4th grade before she married my grandfather. I remember hearing stories about Nelle when I would visit my grandmother growing up. She also encouraged me to read To Kill a Mockingbird one summer while I was there well before I was required to read it in school. Needless to say, my family was pretty proud of our link back to so famous author.
One day when I was in late middle school, we were visiting Nanny (my grandmother) and we decided to head out to lunch to one of the few restaurants in town. David's Catfish was our location of choice for the meal. For some reason, it was only myself and my oldest brother on the trip with our dad. While we were sitting there, a lady came over to speak to my grandmother. They chatted for a few minutes and Nanny introduced us but she never mentioned the lady's name. I didn't think much of it because my grandmother had been a fixture in Monroeville for years and knew just about everyone either from church or her days working at the bank. After the lady left, Nanny leaned over and said, "That was Nelle." Of course, I hadn't seen a recent picture of Miss Lee so I had no idea that was who had been standing at our table. My brother and I both geeked out. We immediately went over and thanked her for her work on her novel and told her how much we loved it. I am sure she hated it because she has always hated for people to make a fuss over her. But we couldn't let the opportunity pass.