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Category Archives: that’s life

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 Holstee Manifesto — This is YOUR Life

A few days ago, this photo came up on one of my old childhood friend’s Facebook (Thanks, Eddie!). Soon, I saw it re-posted on several other friends’ walls, as well. So, I guess you could say that this is the first stage of this thing going “viral” and here’s my contribution.

The beauty of this is that it is spot on. No matter if you’re Democrat or Republican; Black, White, or Hispanic; Catholic, Jew, Protestant or Muslim; it applies to YOU. I’ve wrestled over the last year with fear, despair, separation, and other paralyzing emotions that have stifled my life progress. I’ve done some great work in that year, but haven’t done some great life.

So, I’m going to take this manifesto, created by guys who truly wanted to live it, and try to live by it. Maybe you can find a little of what you’ve been looking for in it too. If so, pay it forward and share with your circle of friends and contacts.

For more information on the Holstee Manifesto, click here.

P.S. Anyone notice two posts in two days?

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in inspiration, navel gazing, that's life

 

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

 

1-1-11….Renewal Time

So, it’s finally a new year and I have resolved to start blogging again.

I could go into why I took a sabbatical, but wouldn’t want to bore folks with my trials and tribulations.  Suffice it to say that 2010 had its ups & downs for me, just like everyone else.  I did experience some major life changes in that I changed jobs (again) and we went through Dave’s Senior year of high school and his subsequent leaving for college.  In between all of that, we have been trying to sell our house so that we can build our dream house “on the river”, but the economy and the Gulf Oil Spill created a frozen market with not a one offer in a year. 

We’re hoping that the Spring of 2011 will bring a motivated buyer so that we can get on with our lives.  Which brings me back to this blog.  While I’ve decided to keep the name, the format will change somewhat.  I’ll still delve into Music, but plan to include some other “features” that may or may not revolve around photography, sports, politics, home building, decorating, fishing, wine, and anything else that I have a burning desire to share here.

I hope that you will come by, read, and comment and I hope that 2011 brings the best on all fronts for everyone.

New Year, Death Cab for Cutie

 

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Posts will be spattered in here and there for the next few months, as my schedule is fairly full and something’s gotta give.

We’re busy selling stuff and planning stuff; fishing, crabbing, working, and playing.  Frankly, it feels good to be away from the Internets for a while.  I still have about 20 posts partially done, so when things simmer down a bit, I’ll be posting regularly again.

As always, if you have anything musical that you’d like to share, please send to me and I’ll post it.   For now, I leave you with a wish for you to experience a little Hot Fun in the Summertime, Sly Stone style:

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2009 in funk, seasons, Soul, summer, that's life

 

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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”….

IMG_3957

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

 

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Mondays Suck Because…

they follow Sundays.

More to come on River Life shortly.  For now, back to the grind.

 
 

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