Southern Roots in The Help by Kathryn Stockett

***Hi there! If you’re here for the book review on The Help, scroll down to the picture of the book and read from there. But you’ll be missing out on some fabulous anecdotes from my childhood…***

Okay…let’s be honest, I don’t actually have any Southern roots. My mom grew up in California, my dad grew up in New York and I was born in Germany. However, I lived in the South for 14 of my 20 years. That means only 6 years have not been in the South. That’s pretty big. And I have never wanted to be back there more than I do now.

I was four when we moved to Alabama, but we weren’t there very long. I remember my neighbor who babysat us used to spit all the time. My parents wouldn’t let me spit. That made me unhappy. For some reason I have a random memory of spilling Kool-Aid all over the kitchen floor. It was red. That’s all I remember. There’s also something rolling around in my head about a dead fish. John and I shared a room and we would dance to dad’s country cassettes. Our favorite was Alvira.

We loved the “Giddy up Oom Papa Oom Papa Mow Mow” part.

My fifth birthday was in Alabama. It was Cinderella themed. I don’t know if my memories are from pictures or the actual event. But I do remember one thing that wasn’t in any pictures.

My crafty mother bought plain white dresses for each of my party guests to decorate, the same way that the mice decorated Cinderella’s dress in the movie. There were little plastic jewels of every color you could imagine and glitter and paint and sequins. It was any normal five-year-old’s dream. But did I get to decorate my own beautiful dress? No, I did not. My mother bought me a beautiful pink dress with white polka dots, and poofy sleeves with lace around the cuffs. I don’t know if I wore some sort of crinoline underneath or if it was naturally full, but the skirt was big and perfect for twirling in circles. My mother’s mind came up with the very logical conclusion that, with such a beautiful dress, much more beautiful than the hand-made ones, I wouldn’t need to make one. My little five-year-old mind only saw the glitter and jewels and fun the other girls were having, and sat on the couch, arms folded, and jealous.

**Note to my Mom** This has not caused me any anxiety in my adult years and in fact I enjoy the memory of a five-year-old mind and therefore will not need you to pay for any therapy on my behalf.

Well that got off topic. We moved to McDonough, Georgia in the middle of my year in Kindergarten. I remember thinking that I would know which classroom to go to when I got off the bus in the morning because there were three big paper bear cut outs on the wall outside the room. I will never forget my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Nelson. We stayed friends with her long after I left the school. Nor will I forget her assistant, the evil Mrs. Gardener who liked to yell at little children who didn’t stay asleep during nap time (whatever happened to nap time anyway??).

I remember that I didn’t get to go on the circus field trip because I was sick, so my brother and dad went instead. I remember Girl Scout troops and campouts and marching in the Christmas parade. I remember riding my bike with my dad through the ‘scary’ part of our neighborhood where people sat on the couches on their porch (that just didn’t seem right).

And then we moved to Cumming, Georgia when I was ten and that’s where my family has been ever since. I have a lot of fond memories of the South and as the holiday season carries on I find myself getting more and more homesick. Sure I’m homesick for my family, but it’s more than that.

I miss the tall trees that make it feel like no matter where you are, you’re in an enchanted forest. I miss the windy roads with names like Holbrook, and Doc Bramblett, and Karr instead of 900 East. I actually miss the humidity that makes my hair lose its curl. I miss all the trucks and that sweet Southern drawl. There is a certain courtesy and charm you get in the South that you can’t find anywhere else.

So yeah, I will always consider Georgia my home. It won’t matter how long I’ve been married and living somewhere else. It won’t matter that I rarely say ya’ll or ain’t or couldn’t care less about the Georgia Bulldogs or Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. (Although I will go to a Braves game without too much arm pulling). I will always be a Georgia Peach and always think of myself as a Southern Belle.

So what’s with all the remembering, you ask? Well I just finished reading The Help.

Thehelpbookcover

I highly recommend it! It was a fantastic book. It helped me understand a way of life that I have never before thought about or considered how hard it must have been. Sure I learned about the Civil Right’s movement in school and about Dr. King’s dream, but I never really thought about what life was like. The thought of writing a book from the perspective of a maid has no consequences these days. No fear of getting beaten or killed or tortured for the rest of your life. I always try to put myself into the books I read. I found it so incredible that Skeeter lost her friends and her boyfriend/almost fiance for standing up for something she believed in. Reading it, putting myself in their shoes, I felt like I was there and I could see how horrible life was for those who are really no different from those who treated them so badly.

And yet, at the same time, I found myself missing the South. I started wishing that I could live on a beautiful plantation and be like Missus Celia Foote (minus the having babies problems) and create a beautiful garden and take care of my big beautiful home.

I guess the only thing left to do is try to instill my love of the South into my husband who really loves mountains. (I don’t care what anyone in the West says, Sawnee Mountain is a real mountain.) I just can’t imagine raising my children anywhere else. Maybe if I get lucky, one of them will come out telling me to ‘cut off the lights’ and sayin’ “ain’t all ya’ll gunna do this or that”. (Things my mother never would have let us say.)

We’ll see…