I am a type of person where I cannot read just one book at a time. I have to read at least two of them back and forth and complete them in two weeks. One reason for doing this is that my favorite genre is thrillers. Secondly, I do not want to feel “left behind” with smashing new contemporary fiction such as Terry McMillan’s Getting to Happy and most recently, The Help written by Kathryn Stockett. A consultant from my organization loaned me this book, set in 60’s Mississippi. Immediately as I read the protagonist’s voice, I thought of my grandmother.
My grandmother was originally from Birmingham, Alabama who in the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1955, packed up six children, left her abusive husband behind in Montgomery, and headed to Brooklyn, NY, my hometown. I can only imagine the wing and the prayer she went off of when she boarded the train to New York, a land so mystical all by itself. New York City has always been crowded, confusing, different dialects and even the food is not just about Southern cooking, the food my family was used to. However, she grew to love and adore the city.
My grandmother shared several stories with us grandchildren about some of the hardships she faced while working as a housekeeper in Montgomery. Told to us in her soft spoken Southern voice, some of them were about the degrading issues she faced daily because she was a young mother with a load of children; how she cleaned houses of middle-class white people and watched their children all the while pondering what her own were doing. Sometimes she did not talk about these things at all because by the look in her distant eyes, they were painful.
Although I just started reading The Help, in a sense, it reminds me of her. One message I have received from this book is that one must have the strength and will to go on regardless of who dislikes you. Somewhere deep inside, one has a will to survive and keep going, because of those that are dependent on you. And last but not least, the power to live because both my grandmother and one of the protagonists of the story had suffered loss of family members.
Today is Grandparent’s Day. I have never done this before because I have lost so many relatives, including an aunt in 9/11, sometimes it is way too painful to write about such things. But with age and growth, I have learned that it is okay and sometimes the best way, to turn the negative in a positive. My grandmother, Ms. Lucy Mae Temple is truly honored for her strength, dignity, loyalty, and will to provide for her family no matter what. She went to church every Sunday, never cursed, drank or smoked a day in her life. I honor her on this Grandparents Day. May she continue to rest in peace.