I have to be honest.... I had some anxiety about seeing the movie The Help. I'd read the book and it was an emotional roller coaster for me. I had to actually put it down a few times and walk away. It touched a nerve and I wasn't sure if I wanted to experience that again. But I thought about my grandma.
She was "the help," a maid in the South who worked for a wealthy white family for many years. My earliest memories in life are those with my grandma. I remember it so clearly. I was about 4 or 5 years old. She and I would wake up early in the morning, ride a bus to the other side of town and land at the biggest, most beautiful house I'd ever seen.
My grandma (everybody called her Tena) would cook and clean for hours while I played outside with the family's two small children. Two boys. I remember it like it was yesterday.
So....The Help. Once again it took me on an emotional roller coaster. Probably even worse this time because the women who brought these characters to life were exceptional. I felt each heartbreak, the pain & grief, the triumphs and the fear. All of it. I got mad all over again, and laughed even harder and louder than when I read the book! (The translation from book to screen was amazing.)
For some people, The Help is a painful reminder of a time in America's history that was full of hatred and violence. And they don't want to remember that. They don't want to relive it. I understand. For others, The Help is yet another "rescue" movie that shows a white person swooping in to save hopeless, brutally oppressed black people. I understand why people would feel that way too.
My experience however, was different. For me, the story was a moving tribute to all of those women who walked bravely into the pit of hell, and faced the familiar and the unknown with strength and integrity. The movie was inspirational. It represented the unsung heroes in my community who have gone unnoticed and unappreciated over the years. It represented my grandma.
She passed away when I was 7 years old. So, I never got a chance to sit with her and listen to stories about her life as a maid. I felt a little closer to her after I saw The Help. I've always loved my grandma, but I have a renewed respect for her now. I'm not sure if she would have loved the movie like I did, but I think she would have laughed, cried, gotten mad even. I think...somewhere right now she's sitting back with her favorite coke and salted peanuts saying, "Nice job, ladies. You got it right."