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The Help

Last fall, my sister-in-law and BFF recommended a book that her book club was reading titled, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. She thought that I would enjoy it because of my relationship with Rose, the lady that basically raised me and was so important to our family.

It was the first book I downloaded to my Kindle app on my new iPad. As I began to read the story about early 1960′s Jackson, Mississippi and the struggles of black maids working for white families, pangs of familiarity began to churn in my gut. It wasn’t so much the dreadfulness of Civil Rights’ indignities of the day — I am all too familiar with the effects of those days — as it was the stories of the women who were charged with white parents’ most precious possession (their children), but were not allowed to use the restroom inside the lily white homes of these Southern hypocrites.

I was captivated by the historical context and of course, by the personal story of Skeeter Phelan, who sets out to write a book about stories of “the help” — both good and bad. Yes, there were some good stories about relationships between the races, even though very few see the light of day. I read it in two days and was touched in a way I hadn’t been since I read The Horse Whisperer many years ago.

Perhaps the story resonated so deeply with me because of Rose. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, Rose was a constant except for the year or so that she and my mother had a falling out…but more on that later.

My parents were married in May, 1952 and my father moved into my grandparents’ home with my mother so they could save up to build a house of their own. They had my sister nine months after they were married and starting building their house “in the country” about six miles from “town”. My father owned a plant nursery with his father right around the corner from their new homestead. Once the house was finished, they prepared to move their small family into the home that they would occupy for the next 40 years.

My parents were not rich folks, but it had been decided that my mother would need “help” as she only had the use of her right arm, her left arm paralyzed from polio when she was two. Additionally, they had just found out that their daughter was deaf. My father employed alot of field hands at the nursery and was particularly close to his foreman, nicknamed Shawee (which, incidentally, means racoon in french). Shawee’s wife, Rose, also worked at the nursery. They had a growing family and some of the older kids helped out at the nursery in the summer. My father arranged a meeting between my mother and Rose to see if she would be a good fit to “help” my mother in the house. They immediately hit it off and Rose became a fixture in our house and synonymous with our family for the rest of her life.

A short while later, my brother was born and became Rose’s child. He called her “Mamma Rose” and followed her everywhere. He spent most of his days with Rose as my mother was taking my sister to speech therapy and classes each day, trying to prepare her for school. Rose’s kids often spent time with our family and were fantastic playmates.

Rose had nick names for everyone, particularly her kids. Pictured above is Gros Bay Bay (meaning Big Baby in French). There was also Tougi, Tee-an, Sis, and Teeny. The twins would come later…but, more of that later. She also was instrumental in assigning my brother’s moniker as she called him a “chip” off the old block. Since he was a Jr., the name stuck — Chip, or Chippo as she preferred.

Nine years after my brother….surprise, surprise, my mother was pregnant. My sister was off at school in Baton Rouge and came home most weekends, but the house had basically been my brother’s domain with Rose attending to his every need. Rose indicated that this new baby would be a girl and decided upon Suzy-Q as an appropriate name. Rose’s youngest son, Teeny, was a toddler, but she hadn’t had a little girl to spoil in a long time. So, when I was born in the fall of ’64, Rose was in her glory. Many nights, she and one of her daughters would spend the night and baby sit, dressing me up like a little doll and of course, spoiling me rotten.

We loved that lady. I mean truly loved her. Then, when I was about five, Rose was gone. I don’t remember anyone saying why or what happened, I only knew that she was gone and another lady was there to “help”. She was nice enough, but she was no Rose. I missed Rose so much, but I didn’t know where she was. Then, almost magically, she returned when I was starting 2nd grade. It was like she never left. I was soooo happy to have her back. It appears that I had acted out pretty severely at the new lady and looking back, I’m sure I saw her as an impostor and wanted the real deal.

I would find out, years later, that Rose and my mother had a falling out around Rose taking up with a new man after she and Shawee divorced. Not that it was her business, but my mother was concerned for Rose and her children so she applied some kind of tough love and basically told her not to come back if she was going to continue living with the man. So Rose quit or Mamma fired her. After a few months, Rose’s older daughter, Sis, let Mamma know that Rose was pregnant, with twins. My mother was NOT happy and I’m sure she let it be known. She was pissed at Rose because she knew how hard her life was already and now she was supporting a man and two babies and dragging young Teeny through it all. To my mother’s credit, she finally came to her senses and asked Rose to come back. I don’t know if she felt sorry for Rose and wanted to help or if she really just missed her best friend, but I was happy as pigs in shit that Rose was BACK!!

My mother and Rose had an unusual relationship for black and white women in the South in the ’60s. But, then again, southwest Louisiana was a little different in terms of tolerance. Not that there wasn’t racism, but there were more accounts of close relationships between black and white families. My parents demanded our respect for Rose. If we talked back, we were punished just as if we had disrespected one of them. My mother trusted Rose with her most intimate secrets and as a true confidant. Rose knew and understood all our family dynamics and she was often the sounding board for problems, cheerleader for accomplishments and overall, just an objective observer of our lives.

I learned so much from her. Friendship, loyalty, humbleness, integrity, compassion, faith and love, not to mention how to cook the perfect round steak. Probably the most touching part of the story of The Help was the maid, Aibileen, trying to instill confidence into Mae Mobley, the toddler in her care and whose mother was a bit “detached”. Each morning when Aibi arrived and took the little girl from her crib or when she read her story books, she had Mae Mobley repeat: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.”

Rose did the same kinds of things, making us feel good about ourselves and setting her expectations high for us, even though she was always right there and helping to pick up the pieces when we stumbled. Rose died the week of Thanksgiving, 1993 on the same day and hour that my brother’s daughter was born. It was such a bittersweet day in our family, but we knew that this new baby was likely kissed and blessed with Rose’s spirit. A few days later, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral…it was such an honor. Her headstone reads: “In Loving Memory from ALL her children” and lists her name as “Mama Rose”, a tribute from all of her children.

I tell this story because there’s so much talk about racism, bigotry and inequality, but little about love and mutual respect between the races. When little children find a caring, loving and trusted friend who instills self-confidence, the color of their skin or the differences in their cultures fade away. There is only love…and loyalty…and remembrance. So, when I read the book and found out that the movie was being made, I made a promise to watch the movie, alone with Rose. Since I couldn’t have her next to me, live and in person, I brought along this picture of her from my grandmother’s 90th birthday party and of course, her spirit. I laughed and I cried at familiar and compelling parts, knowing that Rose was laughing and crying right along with me.

So, needless to say, I highly recommend going to see The Help. And, when you do, consider the relationships of those women with those children and what an integral part they were in forming these children and giving them such a strong foundation — some who grew up to be priests, teachers, businessmen, doctors, authors and others who are simply “good” people, in part, from the values and teachings of the “help”.

 

The Quest

My Parrain, My Daddy, My Mamma, & My Nanny (on accordian)


Currently, I am 46.3 years old.

For the greater part of my adulthood (roughly 30 years), I have been searching for a song.

As I have reminised here frequently, when I was growing up in my idyllic small, Cajun town, every weekend was a celebration of being alive. Even as a young girl, I looked forward to my parents’ parties. Everyone was happy. There was great food. There were other kids MY age. And, there was MUSIC.

My mother’s cousin was a fabulous clarinet player, a la Benny Goodman, and I remember him frequently entertaining us along side of my Godmother, who was an accomplished musician. However, her REAL talent was that she did it all by ear. Guitar, piano and accordian…and all she had to do was hear a song once and she could replicate it perfectly.

Many a night, I sat in awe watching her play and sing, modulating with my mother in perfect-pitched harmony. Now, the men always joined in toward the end of the night and they were ok, most of the time. But, every blue moon, my Parrain (Godfather), who was also my accomplished musician Nanny’s (Godmother)
husband would treat us to “their” song. Beautiful harmony generally resulted and I saw what love could be…what I wanted it to be.

I sought that song for a very LONG time. They never could remember who, exactly, sang it. For their 50th Wedding Anniversary a few years ago, I tried dilligently to find it based on my memory of the melody and lyrics, but to no avail.

I am a researcher…on many levels…and I take pride in being able to find something, so I never gave up. Tonight I tried a new theory and I found it! HELL YES!! Finally. And, it was oh so sweet listening to it for the first time with the familiar refrain resonating in my brain. Amen. Finally. Strike one off the bucket list.

So, ladies and gentleman, kats & kittens, with no further adieu I bring you one of THE best songs ever written and that I KNOW you’ve never heard. From one Mr. Johnny Ace, Saving My Love For You

(click on “Watch on YouTube”)

And, love was just as I thought it would/should be.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in family, harmony, Influences, Louisiana, love

 

“Home” Bound

I’m heading to Lafayette, LA for the weekend — my hometown. Well, technically, I grew up in Youngsville. Actually, I technically lived in the country between Lafayette, Youngsville, Milton and Erath. Both my mother and my father’s families have been in that area for hundreds of years and I’m about as Cajun as you can get. That’s why there’s always been such a magnetic pull towards “home”.

When I moved 60 miles down the road to Baton Rouge in the late ’80s, my Daddy lamented on my moving away. We lived there for 10 years, so he got used to us being just an hour from home, even though not having us within 10 miles concerned him. Then, we moved to Memphis and all hell broke loose. Both of our families were supportive of our move, but secretly criticized our living so far away to each other. What were we thinking? Why would we do such a thing? We needed to be closer, not farther from “home”. After six years of 7 hour drives and late night, expensive air travel, and not-so-subtle hints from family, we chose to move to Mobile, AL. With both of our fathers facing health problems, four hours seemed doable on short notice and within the cone of reasonable travel for visitors to well, visit us.

Still, our families cannot understand why not Lafayette? Why not “home”, for goodness sakes? Everyone needs to be together, after all. While we love our families, and love the area where we grew up in, once you’ve been away for so long, it’s hard to just “go back”. Maybe one day, it’ll happen. After all, our son (who has never lived there) is now going to college there. I know that my Daddy would be so glad. He always thought that David would never be tied to his Cajun roots and now he’s in the heart of Cajun Country. Might even find him a Cajun bride there. He says that Cajun girls are prettier than Alabama girls. HA!

There’s just something in our DNA that pulls us there. It’s hard to explain, but it’s got the best people, the best food, the best music, the best activities and it all centers around family and friends. It’s the only place where I’ve ever felt true acceptance. Perhaps it’s the sincerity and honesty of the people or maybe it’s the joie de vivre in which they work hard/play hard. But, whatever it is, it’s strong.

So strong that Kansas City Royal pitcher, Gil Meche, has announced his retirement at 32 and forfeited $12 million of his last year’s contract to get back to his hometown of Lafayette.

He captures it pretty well, in this quote:

“I want to get back to what I remember as a kid, the way of life here in Louisiana,” Meche said. “We tend to think we live a little differently down here. It’s a lot of culture, a lot of French culture. Everywhere I’ve been in the country, for some reason, this is the place I can’t get away from.”

That’s another Cajun trait that I adore…money ain’t everything. Those who have family and friends are the richest people and whatever money you have just helps to pay for things that you can do with them. So, this weekend, I’m going to do just that. Spend a little time and money with/on friends and family, at “home”.

Another Lafayette native, Marc Broussard:

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in cajun, family, Louisiana, Marc Broussard

 

Modern Problem: “Alone” Time

THIS is why I LOVE Modern Family.

Familiar?

Leave a comment, PLEASE!

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in family, Funny, Modern Family, that's life, TV

 

Modern Family, Modern Funny

Absolutely the best show on TV, Modern Family continues to entertain me (no small task) each Wednesday at 9pm EST, 8pm CST on ABC.

Now, I used to be a huge situation comedy fan when I was younger, dedicated to M*A*S*H, Happy Days, Barney Miller, Maude, and Good Times. However, in my adult years, not even Seinfeld held my attention for long — until Modern Family.

A serious LOL for the 21st Century, Modern Family centers around three families in the larger context of one family. The conventional unconventionalness of the family dynamic among the families is what really makes this show so appealing. Everyone can find themselves somewhere in the Modern Family.

Here’s a family tree of characters (click for larger picture):

If I had to choose just one favorite character, it would have to be Cam (actor Eric Stonetreet). The flamboyant yet tough former football player partner of Mitchell (actor Jesse-Tyler Ferguson). Together, they adopted Asian baby, Lily.

While I actually love ALL the characters in this show, my next favorite would have to be Manny (actor Rico Rodriguez). The young, latin impresario is the son of Gloria (actress Sofia Vergara) who is the young, Columbian wife of Jay (actor Ed O’Neill a/k/a Al Bundy), who happens to be Mitchell’s father.

And, then, there’s the Dunphys. Perhaps the most traditional family among the group, with a Mom, a Dad, and three kids who are all their’s together. Father Phil (actor Ty Burrell) and mother Claire (actress Julie Bowen) tackle everyday issues with their teenage/pre-teen daughters and young son with humor, love and a little neuroticness. Claire is Mitchell’s sister and Jay’s daughter — hence, the family connection.

The writing on this is show is brilliant. Christopher Lloyd, Steve Levitan and their talented staff of scribes no doubt pull from their own family and life experiences which is likely what makes the show and characters so identifiable. They delve into sometimes dark places like OCDness, prejudice, fears and phobias, etc. but do it with authenticity and self-depreciating wit.

Each week, I look forward to see where the Modern Family will go. Currently, it’s right to the top of the ratings. Well done, Modern Family, well done.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in family, Funny, Good Stuff, Modern Family, TV

 

Happy Dad’s Day

Today, we honor the Dads and Grand-Dads, alive and gone, who are/were those loving, solid rocks who we adored as children, sparred with as teenagers and honored as adults.  If yours is still here, hug his neck tightly today.

Here are a few “Father” favorites:

  My Father’s Eyes, Eric Clapton

  My Little Girl, Tim McGraw

  Cats in the Cradle, Harry Chapin

Miss you, Daddy.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2009 in acoustic, Eric Clapton, family, holidays

 

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A Going Jessie

Just when I thought (again) that I knew every intricate corner of Mr. D’s mind, he surprises me again.  Reminiscient of my discovery of his penchant for musicals, he made a comment yesterday that the recent “green shoots” in the stock market are a “going Jessie”.

What?!? 

I know a lot of useless information, including historical slang, but had NEVER heard this phrase before.  While I understand the context, I had no idea of the origin.  So, after a good laugh and conversation with Mr. D regarding where he picked up said phrase (that he has NEVER used in our 21 years together), I did what I do best….GOOGLED IT.

What I found surprised me.  Seems that She’s a Going Jessie was a Rockabilly tune in 1956, by Andy Starr:

According to Mr. D, a “going Jessie” is something that is consistently moving in a certain di-RECK-shun.  Now, I’m not sure what came first, the saying or the song, but it’s safe to say that 8 year old Mr. D. likely picked up the saying from the song.  Go figure.  Along with playing “Lone Ranger” and “Green Beret”, he picked up “going Jessie” somewhere along the way.

THAT, is what I absolutely adore about the man.  After 20 years, he still surprises me.

Today, I took the day off to enjoy the day with my musical loving, golf-playing, totally hot, fisherman extraordinnaire husband. 

I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.  After all, he’s quite a “going Jessie”….

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Posted by on June 12, 2009 in family, that's life, the river

 

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May Musings

Sorry for the lack of attention here over the last few weeks.  Our lives have been quite busy and something’s gotta give.  Hundred of post ideas pass me during the week, but I’m usually not in a position to post it.  Therefore, I thought I’d throw out the week in review (from my mind).

On the personal front, we’re starting to center life around the river and the boat.  We’re readying our house to sell in order to build our dream house, so there’s plenty of work to keep us busy.  More to come on the dream house, but here’s a preview….

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While this has been top of mind for us, other exciting things are also happening.  May is shaping up to be quite a nice month.  On Monday, Mini DD fulfilled a big goal (at least one of his Mom’s) in becoming an official member of the National Honor Society.

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Part of the induction ceremony is the new Junior members being “tapped” by a graduating Senior member.  5′ 6″ Mini DD was tapped by 6′ 8″ GM.  It received the biggest laugh of the night.

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Very nice way to start off the week and so proud of our progeny.

Cinco de Mayo — which seemingly lost it lustre this year because of Swine Flu — required travel starting at 3:00AM (that’s not a typo), with meetings/dinner until after 9:00PM.  I therefore, missed Idol, but was kept informed by  Shrew and KD. 

On Wednesday, John Mayer posted the second video chronicling the creation of his new CD, Battle Studies.

Johnny Boy’s been particularly busy on Twitter and on Wednesday twittered right before playing this…

Since I was traveling home on Wednesday, I once again missed Idol.  I was kept informed that the dudes were safe and Allison was going home, but an important detail was omitted.  No-one told me of the absurd Paula Abdul “first time on TV” performance.  This is wrong on so many levels, but SO telling regarding what the “judges” endorse as good music.

WARNING:  Viewing this video may be hazardous to your musical health.

Along  American Idol lines, Taylor “Tinks” Hicks released his country foray, Seven Mile Breakdown, complete with video.  Perhaps Taylor is reading?  From my March 15th, 2009 post on The Distance:

Along with Nineteen, Seven Mile Breakdown (co-penned with Hicks by Spoonful James’ guitarist and pre-Idol buddy, Wynn Christian) and the title-track, The Distance, Maybe You Should has serious Country potential, if appopriately brought to Nashville.  Even the blues number, Wedding Day Blues is oddly reminiscient of Garth Brooks’ Country anthem, Friends in Low Places.

I think that Country will be much kinder to Taylor and there are even better Country songs on the current CD to be released.  This might have legs.  (**clapping as hard as I can**)

Taylor is also a twitterer, recently tweeting that he LOVES FEIST!!!  See, all you Feist hatersTaylor thinks she’s the female Paul McCartney.  I might not go that far, but do still love me some Feist.

  Feel it All, Feist

Rather excited to find this morning that Janiva Magness was named Entertainer of the Year at the 2009 Blues Music Awards in Memphis last night.

….although she beat our Watermelon Slim….

Pretty cool, as the guy is left-handed — so he’s playing that dobro upside down and backwards.

All in all, a pretty solid week except for the fact that Dom Deluise died.  Sure miss the great comedy of Carson and Company.

R.I.P. Captain Chaos.

 

I will be back to regularly scheduled programming soon….just trying to catch my breath.

 

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A Most Excellent Weekend…

Must say that this weekend was superb. 

On Saturday, we headed out on our maiden voyage in our new boat.  Mini-DD and Mr. D fished while I took pictures and listened to my “Boat” playlist CD on the on-board CD player (pretty cool).

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Mini-DD fishing near Dog River Bridge

 

Mr. D giving instruction

Mr. D giving instruction

 We were on the water early and the scenery was just extraordinary. 

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I can get used to this. 

Today, we decided to pick up some steamed seafood from one of the local seafood houses.  It was crabs and crawfish abound….

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A few days ago, my friend, Pat from Cocoderie (Amy’s Dad) made me aware of an old song from Elvis’ homage to New Orleans’ King Creole.  Knowing that I’m a huge fan of ‘The King’, Pat passed along this song from the movie.

  Crawfish, Elvis Presley

I absolutely love this clip.  The street scene is so vintage New Orleans and that street basically looks the same today. 

Very cool.

I hope you all had as great a weekend as I did.

 

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The Story

Of course, there’s always a story.  But here is my beginning, middle and end, in reverse.

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…is reminiscient of one of my favorite songs….

  The Story, Brandi Carlile

3.5 inches of snow expected tonight….

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2009 in brandi carlile, family, Travels

 

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