Part 2 (see below for a link to part one)
I cannot tell you Celestine’s story without including her husband. Celestine had married very young, in her early teens. Prince “Tut” Marsh was, in certain ways, so much like my daddy that we sometimes said they could have been twins if only their skin had been the same color.
He was one of the hardest working men I had ever encountered. While working for my grandfather in his youth, Tut lost one of his arms in a sawmill accident. As soon as it was healed enough that he could manage it, Tut was back at work at Grandfather’s saw mill. Although my grandfather helped with the medical expenses, there was no workman’s compensation in those days. If you wanted to eat and keep a roof over your head, you worked.
He’s never lost that strong work ethic, either. I remember several years ago when I did a newspaper interview with Tut and Celestine to mark their 60th wedding anniversary. Poor Tut could barely keep still long enough in their trailer to answer the questions.
“If-if you are done, Miss, I need to ge-get back out there and finish planting the garden,” he said politely with his familiar stammer.
Like my daddy, Tut was a good man but a very quick-tempered one. He drank in his younger years, and when he was intoxicated, Tut—a big, strapping and very strong fellow who could do serious damage even if he did have only one arm–could be pretty terrifying. Mama said that on more than one occasion, Celestine would flee their house in the dead of night and run through the woods to turn up at our farmhouse’s door. And there she would stay in her safe haven until Tut sobered up.
Daddy knew he couldn’t hold liquor well and rarely drank. But he was volatile and it didn’t take a lot to make that temper flare at times. More than once, Mama sought out Celestine when Tut’s “brother” was misbehaving. You could say they were in the same boat at times, and it was comforting to share the ride with someone else who understood where you were coming from.
I remember seeing Celestine in her preachin’ robes, topped off by the jauntiest of satin berets. On Sunday afternoons, I would sometimes sit on the back porch of the farmhouse and listen to Celestine’s congregation in the little church on the hill, singing to the rhythm of that big bass drum. I loved how spirited those voices were as they rose and fell and the drum thumped away. There was so much more life and energy in their singing compared to our church’s congregation, or so I thought.
In addition to serving as a minister, rearing her own children and later, some of her grandchildren, Celestine was also a foster mother for the county, helping raise children in need of homes. In addition, she worked for a couple of families in town, helping to cook and clean and care for their children.
In the black community, Celestine was fondly referred to as “Mama Teen.” She was a mother figure to many people, black and white.
She provided me with comfort and encouragement during those difficult adolescent years, when I was certain I was one of the ugliest people to walk the face of the earth and that no one would ever want ME. Years later, when the ugly duckling blossomed, I remember her beaming smiles and those hugs. “See, baby, I told you so!”
Celestine often referred to me as her white baby. And I thought of her as one of my second mothers. I loved her more than I did or do some of my own flesh and blood relatives, as did my two older sisters. After all, Celestine took an active interest in our lives. She sincerely cared. And when we accomplished some milestone in life, I don’t think anyone outside of our parents could have been any more proud of us.
In the last portion of her life, Celestine suffered many health problems, losing her customary plumpness and shrinking even shorter. At five foot six inches, I felt like an Amazon when I stood beside her. It gave me a pang when I realized the indestructible Celestine Marsh was getting old and ever more frail.
She had to endure long hours of kidney dialysis, but she didn’t complain.
“Actually, it’s kind of nice to just have some time to read my Bible and to think things over,” she used to say. Still, Celestine would find the energy to whip up goodies for the holidays, presenting tins of her trademark cheese straws to Benny because she knew he loved her straws better than anybody else’s. Sharing good food is a way to show love here in the South, and like so many other people, Celestine loved my husband. She loved that he was so good to her baby.
When she passed away several years ago, the church could barely hold all the attendees. Mama and I were the only two white people there, but we were given seats in the front of the sanctuary. It wasn’t because we were white, you see; it was because we were family.
Sometimes, when I am down at the old farmhouse, I close my eyes and listen and I can almost hear the boom of the big bass drum and the sound of voices praising God, echoing from the hilltop church. I can see her, white apron flapping, wielding that hoe as she killed the rattler. Smell the delicious scent of her homemade yeast rolls and fried chicken.
I can feel her arms wrap around me in a warm hug and hear her say, “It’s good to see my baby. You’re lookin’ good.”
I am so glad and so blessed that I had someone like Celestine Marsh, a strong and compassionate and wise woman, in my life.
Watching The Help brought back a flood of memories, and quite a few tears. It is highly recommended.
I just wish she and Mama could have seen it. I think they would have enjoyed it, too.
Oh, those eyes. Beguiling, alluring, sleepy, smouldering, pleading, angry, angsty, ferocious, suspicious, kind, tender . . . they can express so much, can’t they? And Richard certainly knows how to use them. Now, as I am yawning my dang fool head off, I am going to try to get some shuteye. Later, ladies.
I mentioned in a previous post watching The Help, and the strong emotional response I had to the film.
First, let’s talk about the film itself, based on Kathryn Stockett‘s bestselling novel of the same name.
The Help is set in Mississippi in the early 1960s during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. A young society girl, known to one and all as Skeeter (Emma Stone), has aspirations to become a novelist. Fresh out of college, she returns to her hometown and decides she wants to tell the life stories of the black servants—“the help”—who have for generations raised the children of well-to-do southern families.
Only one maid, Abileen, Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, is willing to speak with her in the beginning.
There is unhappiness on both sides with Skeeter’s writing project—Abileen’s friends in the black community think she should stay silent and not rock the boat, and Skeeter’s friends from the fine old southern families think one of their own is meddling with the status quo.
Nevertheless, Abileen and Skeeter continue their collaboration, and other women begin to come forward to share their own experiences. Their stories are eventually compiled into a book, also called The Help, and published under a pseudonym—with all the names and locales changed, of course.
Still, everyone knows “who’s who” and some of the stories paint a very unflattering portrait of their employers, particularly Hilly, a manipulative and venomous creature portrayed brilliantly by Bryce Dallas-Howard.
Along the way we also see a friendship develop between Celia Foote, the “white trash” wife of Hilly’s former boyfriend, and Celia’s maid, Minny. Both Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis as Minny and Abileen give true, honest performances that linger with you well after the film has ended.
It’s the sort of film that makes you laugh and weep and think. I haven’t yet read the book, although I do have it on my Kindle; from what I can gather, the film adaptation from the source material is a pretty solid one. It’s well acted, well scripted and has excellent production values. Filmed in Greenwood, Miss., The Help looks and feels authentic.
For some, this film could be a valuable history lesson on the way things were in the segregated South of 50 years ago and the complicated relationship between black servants and their white employers; for others of us, it’s a reminder of life as we once knew it.
I was born in Alabama, right next door to Mississippi, in roughly the same time period in which this story is set.
I did not attend school with black children until the fifth grade when our schools were forced to integrate. I remember when black customers could not eat inside the air-conditioned dining room of the Dairy Queen. How they were not even allowed to use the same pick-up window. Public water fountains were “whites only.” Black patients sat in separate waiting rooms at the doctor’s office.
I knew families whose meals were cooked, houses cleaned and children cared for by black servants, who were not allowed to eat at the same table as their white employers.
Many of those servants were genuinely loved, and yet, expected to stay at arm’s length from white society. Expected to know their place. It’s a contradiction, but it was (and for some, still is) a reality.
Celestine Marsh was “the help” at our home on a part-time basis, usually once, sometimes twice in a week. She was barely five feet tall with a well-upholstered body and a couple of gold teeth that flashed when she smiled.
I will always remember the delicious rice pudding she made from leftover rice and how good it tasted as an afterschool snack. I remember the time she took a hoe and killed the rattlesnake that was threatening my two older sisters.
I remember her prayers. You see, she was also an ordained minister, the pastor of the little concrete block church they built on land deeded to her family by my daddy. When Celestine got the Holy Spirit stirring, she vibrated all over as if she was being shocked with an electric current.
“Yes, Lord, Yes. Praise God, praise Jesus,” she’d exclaim in that slightly throaty voice, raising her plump hands in the air and closing her eyes.
I don’t mind telling you that as a little girl, I was a bit scared of Celestine in Jesus Mode. As I grew older, I came to appreciate Celestine’s fervent prayers for me and my family. When Celestine was talking to the Lord on your behalf, you felt well and truly prayed for, as if she had a direct line to God.
When my older sister had to go into the hospital for some surgery, it was Celestine who weaned me. My mother informed me that when she came back home, I initially wanted nothing to do with Mama, having bonded with Celestine.
She was actually one of my mother’s first friends when Mama came from the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee to Alabama in 1946 to marry my daddy. My mother didn’t know any black people growing up. That’s because there were no black people in that part of Tennessee back in those days.
And on the big farm my grandfather had established, there were many farm hands working in his cotton gin and lumber mill and in the fields. Mama experienced culture shock. When my grandfather came down on the train to visit Mama in the early days of her marriage, he expressed trepidation over all those unfamiliar dark faces surrounding his favorite daughter.
Mama told him, “But Daddy. They’re just people, too. You treat them right and they will treat you right.” Unlike Daddy, Mama didn’t grow up using the “n” word and she taught us not to use it either.
Still, as with so many other white families, Celestine was referred to by her first name, with no courtesy “Miz” in front of it. You just didn’t use formalities with the help. It wasn’t done. As the Bruce Hornsby song says, “That’s just the way it is . . .”
(end of part one)
Comic-Con is coming July 11-15 in San Diego!
Peekaboo tongue, that is. Also known as the Tongue of Concentration. We’ve seen it utilized with RA characters deep in thought, battling nerves and anxiety, planning and plotting and perhaps prepared to make mischief.
It’s a mannerism Richard himself often employs in real life, too. I find it quite endearing.
I wouldn’t mind trying it out to test the theory—touching his beard, that is. Or those delicious forearms (so strong looking!) to stroke those downy hairs . . . *sigh*
WP is being a pill, the humidity is 91 percent and the A/C is going to run through the night tonight. I don’t feel like sticking to my pillow. Hair is up in a ponytail to help keep me cooler.
Watched The Help. Cried. Personal reasons as well as the storyline. Very strong performances. More on my emotional connection later, maybe tomorrow.
I am going to try to travel as lightly as possible when I wing my way to Comic-Con in two-and-a-half weeks. Benny says I am genetically incapable of this–traveling light- so I am, of course, determined to prove him wrong. I frankly don’t want to pay Delta Airlines $35 to check a bag, and that worrywort part of me that makes me very much Joe and Ova’s baby girl also makes me fear a checked bag might end up in, oh, San Francisco while I am sitting in San Diego. I speak from experience. So I needed a roomy bag I can stuff under the seat to go with my carry-on with wheels for the overhead.
I went online where I found myself a sturdy, affordable, well-reviewed tote to serve as my handbag/Comic-Con gear bag, one that won’t show dirt easily, with room for lots of stuff. (BTW Duluth Trading Company also has some gorgeous leather bags and briefcases I think RA would love, but they were out of my price range and not really what I needed for my journey there and back again.)
My tote arrived in yesterday’s mail and here’s what it looks like (only in washed brown instead of khaki).
And here’s the description from the website.
With my old palm recorder malfunctioning, Benny found me a new one on Ebay that is smaller than many cell phones, a perfect fit for one of the pockets in the tote. After all, assuming I DO get an interview with Richard, I can’t take a chance on any of my gear not working (perish the thought!). Instead of this trusty old laptop, I think I’m going for my little netbook–it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles loaded on it this does, but once again, it’s smaller and takes up less space. Traveling light, remember?
Of course, there will be the airline travel-approved Ziploc bag of small toiletries of the liquid kind, other toiletries, a travel container with all my meds, spare contacts and other lens paraphernalia, my glasses . . . all the things I really can’t do without.
I am still debating over what to wear. There’s supposed to be an iron and ironing board in the room so if stuff is squashed into wrinkles, I can take care of that. Lists, lists, decisions, decisions. Thoughts of Mr. A.
I’m still tingling over those photos of RA with fans from the theatre fundraiser. My gosh, but the man is handsome! He just gets better all the time, doesn’t he? Be right, Lee Pace, and let RA be there in all his gorgeousness at Comic-Con International.
Even if I can only admire him from afar, it will be a lot closer than I’ve ever been before . . . thanks to you all. 😀
Sometimes I just don’t know what the world is coming to. First, there was the conundrum that is the massive popularity of the Kardashian clan, a family devoted to plastic surgery, nasty sex tapes, and marriages that look suspiciously like publicity stunts. A mother who pimps out her daughters for fame and profit. How enterprising.
And now–good grief–a global merchandising license for The Trilogy that Dares Not Speak Its Name in My Presence. Yes, boys and girls, you will soon be able to sleep between 50 SoG sheets, apply 50 SoG blush and lipstick, adorn yourself with 50 SoG jewelry, spritz on 50SoG scent, decorate your house or apartment with 50SoG home furnishings, slip into 50 SoG lingerie and purchase 50 SoG-themed “adult products for adult women.” Hmmmmmm.
Give me a frickin’ break. As someone pointed out, it’s one thing for your youngster to have a Harry Potter poster on the wall or a Katniss Everdean comforter on the bed. We expect this sort of merchandising for popular franchises such as these which are aimed at kids and teens. Heck, we fangurlz and boyz of a more mature age are eager to get our hands on a Thorin action figure, right?
However, 50 Shades clearly ain’t for kiddies. I am more than a bit disturbed at the thought of an image hanging in my bedroom of Christian Grey wielding his belt and tie while wearing a sadistic grin on his face. Personally, it would be the stuff of nightmares. But that’s just me.
Still, we all know this Shlock Fiction is a huge cash cow and, clearly, E.L. James and Company are going to milk this baby for all it’s worth.
With 13 million copies sold here in the U.S. alone, I ‘m sure there’s a market for the merchandise . . . in fact, I’m surprised she and her literary agent didn’t ink a deal earlier. Then again, she was busy with that $5 million movie deal. Oh heavens. There will be merchandise tied in with it as well, probably . . .
An officially licensed speader bar and your own Ana handcuffs for your Red Room of Pain, anyone?
At least that’s what this bloke says. And I am holding you to it, Lee Pace. Hey, I have even written a blog entry about you, you know. The link is at the bottom of this post.
I’ve always liked you as an actor, you seem like a pretty swell guy in real life, and frankly, I love you for your loose tongue. Waiting for all these official announcements tires me out. I want to know NOW. And to hear that you said Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage would be at Comic-Con International in San Diego made me very, very happy indeed.
So it looks as if we Americans will get to see the Bearded (?) Beaut on our own shores again in less than three weeks. And if all continues to go well with my own unexpected journey, I will see him in all his glorious fair flesh–and hairy forearms. *sigh* And hear his voice and if I am lucky, I’ll get to talk to him, ask him a few of those questions we’ve been cooking up.
Didn’t he look great in the photos from the fundraiser? A sparkle in those azure eyes, glowing skin and–just for Servetus–brown hair and beard! And did we mention those muscular forearms? *thud* https://twitter.com/prwelly/status/216507591923208192/photo/1
And because I never get tired of the images from that Hobbit press conference, here we go:
Lucas. Whether it’s the ethereal fine-boned beauty of S7, the well-muscled Porteresque physique of S9 or the “in-between” look of S8 Lucas, he’s always a stunner. Surveilling, searching, going undercover–Lucas does it all with style. The jeans and leather jackets, the snug-fitting pullovers that hug his broad shoulders and sculpted chest, his courier black leathers, so reminiscent of Sir Guy. The pin-striped suit with that power red tie. Those piercing blue eyes and beautiful pale skin that contrast so strikingly with his dark hair . . .
He’s one seriously good-looking spy.