Larry Mantle

"The Help" as movie and real life

The new movie The Help is based on a popular novel highlighting relationships between African-American domestics, their families, and their employers in the Jim Crow south.  It’s a great topic for dramatic treatment, but also a nice prompter for people to share their own childhood stories about both sides of the household employee/employer relationship.

Friday morning on AirTalk, we’ll open the phones to talk about those memories, as well as current household employee experiences.  I’m looking forward to hearing listeners talk about both positive and negative aspects to these working and, often, personal relationships.  Though a tiny percentage of Americans have live-in housekeepers and cooks these days, there are many more live-in nannies who are invaluable parts of the families they serve.

Though my paternal grandparents no longer employed live-in help by the time I was born, I have very warm memories of the thrice-weekly visits by their housekeeper Lillian.  She and my grandmother forged a strong bond, which was obvious to all of us in the family.

When my grandparents moved out of Los Angeles, both women sobbed.  Lillian had other jobs lined up, so she could replace my grandmother as employer.  However, it was tough for both to lose their regular talks about family, faith, and life.  They had great mutual respect and appreciation. 

Though they kept in touch, my grandmother frequently told me how much she missed seeing Lillian regularly.  It was one of the toughest parts of my grandmother’s leaving the house she’d lived in for decades.

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