Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the Help

When I picked up Kathryn Stockett's The Help last spring, I wasn't sure what to expect. A co-worker had sung it praises and the reviews had been intriguing. It wasn't until the movie was about to hit the theater, though, that I hustled to my nightstand, (which is, like most nightstands, loaded with books, waiting in a literary cue to be read) and pulled the book from the stack. "No charge for the dust," I thought to myself as I retreated downstairs.

I am one of those who really prefers to read the book before heading to the theater. I want my imagination to conjure up the locations, the characters, the fashions....everything. I was mid-book when the Help was released on the big screen. Charlie was rather eager to go see it, so I set aside my 'I want to finish the book first' mantra and off we went to the 9:20 a.m. Saturday matinee.

The movie is well done. I have to admit that I had somehow not given much thought to the historical timeline in which this movie took place. It was kind of unnerving at first. Having gone to an all white high school (that is, until a new student who happened to be black came to our town my junior year), I remember the television reports of the unrest in the south. And, I remember not comprehending what the 'problem' was.

We had help when we were small. I still remember my mother 'cleaning house' before the cleaning lady came. I was a pre-teen and I asked my mom why she did this. I know she gave me an answer...and, I'm sure it didn't make sense. I wish I could remember the cleaning lady's name. She was tall, and black...and I remember her being quick with her work.

When my youngest sister was born, we had another lady come to help with cooking, the cleaning and the general corralling of me and my siblings while mom was in the hospital and Dad went to work. Bughla (be-yoo-lah) was smaller framed and wore a scarf on her head and a colorful apron. She came early on the school days to help us get dressed, have breakfast and get out the door on time. She had a quiet smile and she seemed to enjoy the chaos we dished out. We were always respectful. I don't remember being conscious of the color difference. We knew there was a difference....but it wasn't something that we questioned or whispered about. It never occurred to us to be curious.

After the movie, Charlie and I shared stories of the help that our parents had. Jewel was the cleaning lady that came to his house. I told him about Bughla and the other lady who came to ours. I told him about my friend, Tisa's, help...her name was Mavis. Come to find out, all of our moms cleaned house before the cleaning lady came!

I finished the book shortly after the movie. The book offered more story than the movie (as most books often do). And, yes, somehow the characters I had imagined from the book changed a bit to look more like the ones in the movie. The movie was well-cast...though for a split second, I could have sworn that it was Lindsay Lohan playing Miss Skeeter (instead of Emma Stone)....and I wondered how in the world I had missed THAT detail! Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, along with Emma were exceptional in their roles.

While only a 'story', the Help takes us back, uncomfortably, to a time where prejudice was the order of the day and people worked hard to keep things divided and segregated. I often times think back to when Tisa and I would take the bus 'up to Pasadena' for lunch. I was reminded which bus I could take and the one I shouldn't. Tisa, who attended St. Andrew's Catholic School, knew the Pasadena bus schedules by heart. Unbeknown to my mother, we took which ever bus showed up first! We were going to lunch, for heaven's sake. I just didn't understand the 'fear'. Now, being an adult, a parent and a seasoned traveler of life's journey, I get what mom was doing.

If you have not read the Help or seen the movie, I hope you will take the time to. It is a story you won't soon forget.

(...and, now you know why I refer myself to as the Scattered Journalist! After re-reading this a dozen + times, it does seem to be a bit scattered. Let me know what you think....)