Saturday, October 3, 2009

Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

We did some time in Mississippi. He had a a pretty neat University job and Lonely Rivers thought that her job would change the world. Baby Rivers celebrated her second birthday in a house that flooded everytime it rained. A woman came to our house every day before we woke up. She made biscuits from scratch and then she ironed our clothes and cleaned our house. She wasn't afraid of the spiders and killed snakes without a blink. She made us blackeyed peas and greens and cornbread. Her laugh came from deep deep in her belly,but she never called me by my first name. Not once. She loved Baby Rivers who loved her right back. She charged ten dollars a day, cash. It pains me to say that try as I might, I just can't remember her name. First or last. But I sure do remember those biscuits.

5 comments:

Tabor said...

Those people who tend to our needs and maintain a happy spirit are certainly saints.

Ralph said...

I ask you this question not as an accusation but as a measure of the temper of the times: did you feel odd accepting all that service for $10 a day or did it feel "natural"? You and I are from the same era. In the DC suburbs of Virginia, My mother had a woman, Nancy, come in every Tuesday to iron our clothes and scrub the kitchen floor. We all loved Nancy for her big heart, her sense of humor, and because of the way she fractured the language. But at lunchtime, Nancy was served her sandwich on the ironing board. She was not allowed, nor did she seem ever to expect, to sit at the table with my mother. Across the street, Mrs. Clever had another woman, Rose, do the same type of work. Rose sat at the table with Mrs. Clever, even shared a post-lunch smoke with her. Even in the pre-civil-rights 50s, when I was just turning 10, feelings ran strong. I thought my mother was wrong and Mrs. Clever was right. (And it so happens that Mrs. Clever was originally from your neighborhood, Everett.)

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Africa with the Peace Corps was to see people of color running their own country and living in their own terms, and to live down Nancy.

Helen said...

For six months or so we had 'Willie' - an Aunt Jemimah of a woman. She came to watch our two little boys ages 1 & 2 while I gave birth to #3. During the few days I was in the hospital (in the early 60's) she actually toilet trained #1! I will never forget Willie or 'Woollie' as the boys called her. To make the situation even more unusual, she lived in a public housing project and so did we. My husband was a student at the time.

You have brought back some nice memories of a very sweet woman.

One Woman's Journey said...

I remember those days. That is the way it was. Just never had anyone come and cook breakfast but remember the fried chicken and other homemade goodies. I loved Willie Mae and my children loved her. She was part of the family.

Beth Niquette said...

What a dear memory. How blessed you were to have had this woman in your life! Sometimes a name is not needed to place those who loved us once.