Thursday, October 6, 2011
I could have been one of the children in the novel, The Help. Like the children in that novel, I was raised in the deep south in a family that had maids. This was the norm for the early 60’s. And like the children in that novel, I developed a close relationship with some of these women.
The first one that I remember was named Willie Mae. I never knew the last name of this short, energetic, older woman. Her deep black skin contrasted with the light colored dresses that covered her small frame.
Willie Mae came to the house every weekday while my parents worked. She kept the house clean, babysat the three of us kids, had supper cooked when my mom arrived home. My mother loved Willie Mae because all of her hard work made my mom‘s life much easier.
She was a godly woman who never learned to read. My older sister, Maresa, would exploit her illiteracy by having the three of us children to sit atop the kitchen counter. Then Maresa would pass out saccharin to us and tell Willie Mae that she was giving us aspirin. She swore up and down that Willie Mae would believe her because she couldn’t read. But I always thought that Willie Mae was playing my sister. Just because she couldn’t read didn’t mean she was dumb. What southern woman didn’t know what saccharin was? But Willie Mae acted as if she believed that we were eating aspirin, and she would pitch a fit. That made my sister feel really smart. I think that Willie Mae knew the truth all along.
One morning my mother received a telephone call from the Chief of Police in our small town. He was calling to let my mother know that Willie Mae would not be coming in to work that day. It seems that Willie Mae’s husband had shot and killed her. They said that he “wasn’t quite right.” I think that he had some senility that had set in. With the blast of his shotgun, we lost our Willie Mae.
This post was written as part of a Community Writing Project entitled Word Portraits over at The High Calling. I am linking to Jennifer Lee's article about her Aunt Gladys at her blog Getting Down With Jesus.
copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins