There is history you can’t remember…you weren’t born yet. There is history that has been glorified or glamorized ..filtered…like panning for gold where all the bad stuff has fallen away. There is history you live through. You were there, a witness to a time that in retrospect, seems otherworldly, like some Alien sighting.
What I saw of history, in The HELP, is a mixture of all of that. The HELP represents the history my mother lived. The history I was not there to witness but which I heard about. Segregation. She lived through that. The HELP represents the edges of change, which I was able to witness, but was too young to understand while it was happening. There are the classic stereotypes of the upper class: the snob, the privileged, the DAR member. And, according to my movie partner, they were 1dimentional. But, as I explained, they needed to be so the maids…The HELP could be three dimensional. The maids were more than 3 dimensional…they created something so special that only an Oscar nod could capture the true essence of what I saw on the screen.
My mother’s mother died three days after she was born. She was put into the arms of her father’s sister and later into the arms of Ida, a black nanny who would raise her and one of many black nanny’s or maids that would be in and out of her life.
My mother often spoke of the affection she had for Ida, as she never knew her own mother. Later in life, my mother, who was a singer and a songwriter, would write a musical called MLK based on her life – the story of her life, a white woman, raised by a black nanny in the time of MLK. She wrote songs to reflect all the milestones during that time, such as a song about Rosa Parks, a song about the march on DC, a love song between Coretta Scott King and MLK and then her very personal song about her love for Ida, called “Momma Don’t Leave Me Now.” About when Ida died. She did see her as her mother. This was not because her own mother was not loving…since her own mother was not alive, it was because of the closeness and the bond the two shared. A natural bond.
My mother was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and she worked hard for me to join and follow in her footsteps., which I did. She was educated and went to an all girl’s college, to get her MRS degree before the obligatory trip to Europe with her girlfriends.. She married soon after college and became a full time wife of an Army Colonel, raising 5 kids along the way…..but not without HELP. Marion at 14, would enter my mothers life as HELP.
My mother had to straddle the two worlds and find a place for her own feelings. Throughout her life she was in awkward social situations, which I witnessed myself or heard about after the fact, where like the characters in the movie, she had to make a social choice about where she stood on subjects like The HELP.
She always managed to find a graceful way to deal with the times or the changing times that would allow her to maintain her respect and love for her nanny Ida and Marion, a woman who would be in and out of her life until she passed.
Marion was and is a member of our family. She was there in the beginning…She was there in the end. When my mother had her first stroke, Marion would care for her, in that classic tale of the parent becomes the child, but in this case it was the nanny becomes the elder care provider.
Ida and Marion – Like glorious bookmarks on my mothers life…we can barely measure it and could not write the entire story without the love of and for The Help.