Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Help

Did you read The Help?  If you haven’t, run out and get it.  It is marvelous.  Even if you haven’t read the book, also run out and see the movie “The Help,” which is based on the book.   The novel examines prejudice, cruelty, kindness, and triumph in the pre-civil rights South.  In particular, the book looks at the lives of maids who worked for white families in Mississippi.

We had a housekeeper who came to live with us in the midst of this same time, just a few years after the setting of the movie.  Her name was Roslyn Brown.  We called her Rose.  She came while my Father was in Vietnam, my brother was perhaps 2 and I was 5 or maybe a bit younger.
She came when we lived in a small brick ranch near a military base.  My room had purple curtains with silhouettes of black cats on them and Chipper Hart lived next door.   My favorite show was Flipper (they call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightening…) and I missed my Dad a lot.
I just recently learned that Rose came to us via a work release program from the Hampton City Jail.    My mother’s choice to hire someone who had been in jail was completely uncharacteristic.  She wasn’t really able to explain to me why she did it, but Rose stayed with us for many years.
She was very tall and very large with long, slender hands that looked like they should be playing the piano.  Rose wore a garnet ring some suitor had given her; it was set in a gold knot with the garnet perched on top.  Frequently, she would refer to herself in the third person, as in, “Don’t you be back sassing Rose, now.”  She used to make candy for us on a large cookie sheet, sweet amber colored, vanilla flavored candy that she smashed into bits with a large hammer and stored in a large tin.  She loved to watch her stories while ironing; “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.”
Once as she stood at the kitchen washing her hands free of some sticky dough, my brother looked her up and down and said, “I don’t think it will come off,” referring to her skin color.  Another time he said reflectively, “Rose, you’re just sort of a big, all over freckle.”  She laughed and said, “I expect I is.”
Rose followed us as we moved from Virginia to Connecticut.  She was devoted to my brother and me.  I never questioned her staying on, but I marvel at the idea of her leaving her entire family and her home to care for someone else’s children.  The thing was, she never thought of us as anyone else’s but hers.  We were her babies.
In the movie, the main character ends up being fired and leaving her “baby” behind.  In my life, Rose left when my mother remarried and moved to New York with my stepfather.  She was never fired, but went home to become an African Methodist Episcopal lay pastor. 
Not long ago, I found an old index card in Rose’s angular, distinctive handwriting, listing the ingredients for a cake.  I had been looking through an old recipe file of my mother's.  I was instantly transported back to that time in my life.  I could see her right before me helping me tie a pair of red Keds.  She died when I was in my twenties from complications from diabetes.  I miss her still.


Judy said...

LOVED the book.
LOVED the movie.
LOVED your rememberences of Rose.

Debra said...

Oh, I so enjoyed your story of Rose! Thanks for sharing with us...Debra P.S. Haven't seen the movie yet but definitely will someday. Glad you liked it!

Anonymous said...

I too, loved this book. The fact that it's so controversial puzzles me a bit. Thank you for sharing about Miss Rose. It touched my heart.