Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Aibileen, Mae Mobley, and Me

Courtesy A. Hughes
Few works of fiction have affected me as deeply as did Kathryn Stockett's masterpiece, The Help. In fact, only 2 others have remained interwoven in the fiber of my being besides hers: Cold Sassy Tree (Olive Anne Burns – 1984) and Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver – 1998). In each case, I did not want the books to end.

Inwardly, I wanted to weep as I slowly turned the last pages. How I loathed the coming of the last one because I would leave my new, old friends behind. I wanted, maybe even needed, to take the characters with me into my future. Their stories had become interwoven with my life story. Such is the power of the written word.

I was barely a chapter into Stockett's book when the tears were slipping down my cheeks in a slow parade of wonder. My heart was beating fast enough that I might as well have been on a treadmill. All I could think was, “OH! When I grow up....these words are the kind I want to write!” I continued to marvel every time I turned a page. I marveled...and I quaked with fear. I'm well into my 5th decade. Have I run out of time before I even let myself admit the truth?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I once had an artist tell me that painting could be painful. As she explained, it is difficult to get colors mixed so that the artist can reproduce what she sees in her mind's eye. At the time, I had not admitted the truth to myself. It was easy to roll my inner set of eyeballs and think, “How insufferably dramatic can you be!”

By the time I cracked open the story of Aibileen's life, I had opened my own Pandora's box of creativity. I understood what the artist meant. Our canvases and mediums are different, but, oh, the agony of re-creating for the world what I see and hear with my heart.

Without practicing restraint, I could have doubled over from the intensity of emotions that welled up within me as the words drizzled off the page and into my soul. The feeling only intensified as Stockett's characters unfolded page by page. I want MY words to live up to that standard! My bones ache with the want of it. 

As I recently told a cousin, “I'm really good with is the middle and the end I struggle with!” Oh, to overcome the fraidy cat in me that says I will never pull myself together enough to flesh out the middle and find the end.

Courtesy B. Creasy
When Aibileen whispers words of hope, reassurance, and value into Mae Mobley's toddler ears, I leaned forward to hear for my own good. Aibileen is whispering the words she yearns to hear – and yearns to have her daughters hear. In that time and place, so much screamed to the contrary in her life.

In her singular grace, she plants them into Mae Mobley's heart when it would have been so easy to take out the unfairness of the world on her tiny charge. Mae Mobley heard the words. So does every lost fraidy cat who picks up the book or sees the movie.

You is kind,” she say, “You is smart. You is important.” (p. 521 - The Help)

We rarely fork out the money for a movie...not even for Netflix. My husband wisely knew there was one movie we could not miss. The tears began within the 1st 5 minutes and continued almost unabated until the last credit rolled. I ached for the Aibileens and Mae Mobleys of the world. I ached for the fraidy cats who have no Aibileen to remind them that they are of a value far more than rubies and gold.

Courtesy Christian Jones Hooker
I've been slower to write this last week or so. I'm scared to take time off. Altho' the clicks keep coming and it gives some of you time to catch up on posts you haven't read, the truth is, momentum slows a bit more for every day without a post. (You know how addicted I am to that counter! It's official, chocolate is now my #2 addiction.)

I needed time to rest. Time to walk through the fields of my mind with Aibileen and Mae Mobley. I savored and cherished the gifts they gave me. I fell asleep one difficult night repeating Aibileen's words to myself as I tossed and turned trying to make sense of my difficult life.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I realized that when I invite you in from the fraidy cat world and tell you that you've found a safe place to come home to, I have been trying to say what Aibileen said so simply. So many of us wait so long to have anyone tell us we are of value in this world and that our hopes and dreams are worth reaching for. 

Whether by accident or on purpose, we learn to be afraid of who and what we really want to be and do. We need a friend like Aibileen to remind us: we are kind, smart, and important. We need a friend who will challenge us to face our fraidy cat fears and become what our hearts long to be.

Tonight, I am thankful for so many of you who have come to read and reflect. I am thankful that many of you have been moved to share the news of the blog with a friend or friends. I am thankful for friends who always believed I was a writer at my core.I am thankful that my 3 fellas have caught a vision for the person I want to be. 
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

I am thankful for a brother, who despite his recent layoff, has put his money where his belief in me is. Come Sunday, I'll be leaving on a jet plane to face 2 friady cats: fear of flying and fear that I'm not really a writer after all. As I reach for my dream, I hope you will be empowered to reach for yours.

Wanna know my dream? It's simple. After spending time with me, I hope you will leave feeling as if Aibileen just leaned over and whispered, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” are. See you later fraidy cat? I'll be here when you are! 

Phillipians 1:6 (Bible in Basic English)
Courtesy B. Creasy
For I am certain of this very thing, that he by whom the good work was started in you will make it complete till the day of Jesus Christ:

Psalm 138:8 (ESV)
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.