I relate so well to Skeeter Phelan, who publishes the stories of the black maids. She feels pulled in so many different directions - by her mother, her friends, and society, but also by her intellect, her ethics, and her love of her maid, Constantine. She feels trapped by the way things are supposed to be. Something inside her realizes that things could and should be different, both for herself and for the black maids she befriends.
Fortunately, my experience has been much more positive than what is portrayed inThe Help. James and Melvine (Mel-VINE-uh) Bryant were like grandparents to my husband, Chris, and his siblings growing up. In fact, they were given seats of honor along with our biological grandparents at our weddings!
Melvine was the person who taught my father-in-law how to cook, and our family is grateful for that every Sunday! So many times, I have heard someone remark about a dish, “I just wish I could do it like Melvine!” She may have been “the help” to others, but to us, she was family, and an example to whom we should all aspire. I can still see her ironing clothes or standing at the stove, laughing at the silly antics of Chris, his brother, and their high school friends or watching Chris’s little sisters dance through the house or shaking her head at yet another one of Gary’s jokes. Those memories and more are so precious to us all.
Mr. James was in charge of the vending machines used by all the farm workers. As he grew older, Chris would drive him once a month to Sam’s Club to purchase all the snacks and drinks to fill the vending machines. Chris has such sweet memories of the fun they had and their talks on those trips. Mr. James passed away a few years ago, and he left those vending machines to Chris. At his funeral, the church was packed full of people - black and white, young and old - who came to pay their respects to a man whose life taught respect.
Skeeter’s love and devotion to Constantine resembles the love that the Paulk family continues to have for the Bryants. There is a connection between us all that rises above the color of our skin. Our families are intertwined because of our own history and positive experiences. And, for that, I am grateful.