Have you see The Help? I read the book and saw the movie, so when Octavia Spencer won her Golden Globe and brought the house to tears I remembered a day when I was little. I was probably 4 years old, and since my Mamma was busy writing and I was alone I decided to go lie in the ditch beside the road and pretend I had been dumped there, a sad, lost child. I was in my nightgown and no one noticed. I lay there for what seemed like eternity until finally Ollie Belle, who was our help at the time, called for me to “come see the poach”…..(the porch, which she took great pride at scrubbing and making pretty). Only Ollie Belle seemed to notice that I was missing, and saved me from certain death from wild wolves or boogie men. Like most children I had a pretty wild imagination, still do. My Mamma was preoccupied with her writing and I was feeling lonely and alone and wanted some attention.
Perhaps I was a little spoiled in those days. After all I was Daddy’s little girl and he had gone off to work, leaving me at home to fend for myself in those days when Mamma just couldn’t stop typing, as the words flowed so effortlessly off her fingertips onto the crisp white typewriter paper, loaded carefully into the typewriter along with the slick black carbon paper.
I awoke each morning to the sound of her typewriter, and I went to sleep to the sounds of the black and white television. I loved watching television while sitting on the sofa next to my Daddy. I would drift off to sleep while Jackie Gleason made Daddy laugh, or while the June Taylor dancers entertained us on Lawrence Welk.
There was a lot of black and white, in those days, there was a visible distinction between the two. I loved my Ollie Belle and was fascinated in trying to understand our differences, and why there were differences, and what it meant. Why did she eat a moonpie and an RC Cola every day? I was not allowed those things, and when Mamma wasn’t looking sometimes Ollie Belle would let me have a sip or a tiny bite. She ironed our clothes with a sprinkler top put onto a cola bottle, and she had a clean fresh smell about her that I can still smell, this very day. She was strong and efficient, she dressed with an apron, and she didn’t talk the same way my Mamma did. She didn’t have a car. She made our sheets clean and she made our pillowcases smooth and soft and when I went to bed in my comfy little bedroom she was the one who had tidied it up and had folded my clothes.
I grew up where two small towns came together, and at the center line there was a building where only Colored were allowed. I remember that handpainted sign, black paint on a white board. What did “colored” mean? I asked my Mamma. In my mind I thought that it meant colors, like crayons, and I thought the place must be filled with vivid wonderful colorful toys and art and beautiful things. I so badly wanted to go inside, and couldn’t understand why my Mamma said that we weren’t allowed. On the outside of the building were two water fountains. A sign over each one, one sign said colored and one sign said white. What did that mean?
Ollie Belle was our help and I am certain that my mamma liked having her around as much as I did. I don’t know how she got to our house or how she got back to her home. I do not know how much she was paid. I do not know if she had children at home, or if she was married. I am going to ask my Mamma what she knows about Ollie Belle, what she may remember about this help of ours, who rescued me from the ditch and who made Daddy look good at work with starched and ironed shirts and saved my mamma from household chores so she could write. Ollie Belle, who ate moonpies and drank RC Colas, made my world a better place and for that, I am thankful.