Saturday, March 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, Flannery!

Today, we celebrate what would have been Flannery O’Connor’s 92nd birthday. Some new friends from Iowa making their “pilgrimage” to Milledgeville even brought a cake to the farm to mark the occasion. Flannery’s 91st birthday fell on Good Friday, and thus the day was rendered slightly less festive, but the 92nd brings with it the first right and proper days of Spring. It was a beautiful day for a celebration. I’m sure our friends down in Savannah at the Childhood Home celebrated in style today, as well. Were she with us to take part, I’m sure she’d have a sardonic comment and a wry smile over Coke, coffee, and cake.

Flannery didn’t have too much to say concerning birthdays, outside of a couple pearls of wisdom in The Habit of Being that extol the virtues of childhood after growing into adulthood. Surviving childhood, she held, taught one all that was required to succeed. Her dictum may be a bit reductive and smack of all those meddlesome teachers and “innerleckshuls” found in her fiction, but we can forgive someone who had only 39 birthdays of wanting to learn efficiently. So too, birthdays that occurred at Andalusia had the specter of lupus hanging over them; aging, no doubt, came painfully.

However, as the blooms take over the plants and Manley Pointer II readies his new crop of tailfeathers, new beginnings hover all around Flannery’s birthday, too. As Flannery would look to Easter and the Lenten season for renewal, we can look merely to the arrival of Spring to get that sense of novelty and vitality this time of year. Thus, in the spirit of birthdays and new beginnings, we look to her fiction and life and find ourselves transformed in the ways that she’d shout at our “hard-of-hearing” egos and “almost blind” senses of self. Thank you, Flannery, and happy birthday.

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