I went to see “The Help” this weekend. I knew I would like it, and I did, even more than I thought I would.
And it made me think of Mrs. Williams.
I have to state, first, that I was born around the time the events depicted in the movie occurred. And Mrs. Williams didn’t start working for our family until I was in junior high, I think. I’m not quite sure.
I also have to emphasize that my family was not a wealthy or upper middle class family, with a stay-at-home mother who hired help so she could go be involved in bridge clubs and social events, etc.
No, my mother worked full-time, and she worked damn hard. My father worked full-time, and he, too, worked damn hard. It’s entirely possible that during Mrs. Williams’s tenure my father was working two jobs. My mother was the first female certified latent fingerprint examiner in the state of Georgia. She was either working days and on call nights, or else she was working nights and spending her days testifying in court.
So Mrs. Williams was no luxury for our family. She was a necessity. And we loved her. I loved that she and I shared first names (Virginia). My sister loved her for standing up for her when my brother and I got too bratty. She taught me how to roll lemons on the counter, putting a lot of pressure, before you cut them open to squeeze the juice for lemonade or hot toddies, because that releases so much more juice. She taught me that hot lemonade made with honey worked wonders on sore throats.
She loved us. At least, that was the impression we got from her. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe we were just a job. I remember being struck by the difference in our homes, on those days that I rode with my parents to take her home to the projects. I remember being a little scared when we drove through the projects, because the people looked so tough. Now my older self recognizes that if they were tough, it was because to survive, they had to learn how to be tough.
Mrs. Williams, wherever you are, please know that in the months that you worked in our family, you earned a tremendous amount of love, and your memory will always be bright in our hearts.