On Saturday, August 13, I purchased a copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
On Sunday, August 14, I started reading it on the car ride up to Missouri for our late summer vacation.
On Tuesday, August 16, I finished reading The Help at about 12:30 a.m. (technically, Wednesday, August 17).
I have not been captivated by a book like that in quite some time.
Today I saw the movie. While it was very good, and I wept quite frequently throughout the film as the printed characters “came to life” – it did not match the book. My tears were more from an extension of the connection I felt to the women described in the black and white pages.
I went to see it by myself during some short “me-time.” It was packed. I was sitting next to an elderly black woman who was there with her daughter. There was another woman on the other side of me with her husband. A few rows in front was a group of about five older white women with tall, white Texas hair. I caught glimpses of young and old couples, book-club-type-girlfriends and a few children. Together we laughed, cried, cheered and applauded.
When the credits began to roll, I just sat there for a few moments gently sobbing. I couldn’t get up right away and was actually quite shocked that everyone else did like this was just some movie.
Yes, I understand the book and the movie are works of fiction. I also understand that the events portrayed happened all over the south and it breaks my heart when I think of how things were back then. And still are in many places today.
I feel blessed by the fact that I literally cannot comprehend how or why so many people believed/believe such outrageous lies based in ignorance swaddled in fear tied up in rage surrounded by disgrace driven by guilt. I am grateful for so many others whose courage poured forth to break chains, unhinge hypocrisy and create a future for the rest of us to find for ourselves.
I wish I could say I was utterly free from all stereotypical misunderstandings but if I adhere to honesty in these writings, I must admit that I am sure I am not. I can say that by the grace of God or the Universe or whomever/whatever is believed to be our pure love’s guiding force, I have very few. I can see a difference in skin color, cultural backgrounds, sexual preferences, genetic tendencies, political agendas, and economic barriers and still be filled with the deep desire to celebrate them and rejoice in our common humanity.
I purchased the book that sparked Ms. Stockett’s novel, Telling Memories Among Southern Women: Domestic Workers and Their Employers in the Segregated South by Susan Tucker and have only begun reading it.
I have a vague memory of my mother talking about having to briefly hire help after I was born in 1967. My sister is only 18 months older than me and our oldest brother by that time had become very ill with Herlers Syndrome which eventually took his life much too soon. I am not sure if I remember the help correctly or if it is one of those garbled childhood thoughts arisen from something else entirely. I wrote a poem about something many years ago. A memory of vision I had as a kid. Or maybe it was a vision of a memory. I am not sure. These are feelings I have had chase me for a long time but never really get the courage to get loud about.
I Remember Somethin' Yesterday I am a child riding in the backseat of my parents' car. We are driving on a familiar freeway to visit family. I am staring out of the window at the countryside. I see it as clear as the day. I feel a sense of peace and joy. I smile at them. A one room cabin Alone on a flat pasture The sun is shining very bright A large very black woman Five or six very black young kids Running and laughing and playing All wearing stark white oversized shirts Mama is hanging more out to dry on the porch Snapping off the excess water at us It laundry day We are happy I would drive that same road many more times over the years. I always searched for the cabin but never again saw it as I did that day. Today Again, I am driving, Staring out of a new yet same window. My time here is uncountable. My brain is overloaded. My heart hurts. I feel that woman again. I feel those kids again. I smile with them. And I remember somethin' © Kathleen Vaught August 10, 2005