Posted by: twotrees | February 2, 2012

The Help in my life


We just finished watching the recent film The Help, a story of what it was like to be a black, female, maid in the early 1960’s in Jackson,Mississippi.  While a piece of fiction, the story is probably more close to the truth than many things are.  And it took me back to a place long ago…

It was another life.  The first chapters of my memory were spent in New York City.  Upper eastside to more precise.  My mother was single, which required her to work full time to earn a living for her and I.  During the day, my ‘nurse’ Dina would come take care of me, cook and clean the house.  Dina was a woman certainly older than sixty, but I never knew.  She was not what people call pretty on the outside: a large woman with no front teeth, silly wig.  But on the inside, nothing but goodness.

Immediately after watching the film, I rummaged through an old photo book and found the photo above, of me and her, circa 1965.  I can see the relationship we had in the smiles on both of our faces.

Dina had a family, but her children were grown by then.  She lived inHarlemwith her husband Joe, who was blinded in WWII as I recall.  So she took the job of caring for one young single man who needed someone to watch and teach life lessons to.  I was that guy.

My mother had soft spot for Dina.  I just plain loved her.  Because she treated me as one of her own.  I remember just a few things about her.  One was when I had put a metal bottle cap in my mouth and inadvertently swallowed it.  Dina knew just what to do – she lived me up by my leg, and with not a split second of thought, slapped my backside so hard that I coughed the cap right out.  No big deal for her, but she saved my live.

One other day etched in my mind was our trip toHarlem.  Dina and I rode the bus up to 130 something street and walked to one of the many high rise tenement buildings.  Up the stairs we went and inside her apartment.  Joe was there, sitting on the couch.  He reached over and shook my hand, not seeing me but feeling me.  And while I looked at this bear of a man, his wife Dina hugged us both.  At this time of my life, there was no color, just people I knew, trusted and loved.  There were so many lessons she taught me, so much experience to impart. 

There were thousands of kids like me, throughout the country, that were loved and cared for by people like the women in the film, like Dina.  And although they are now gone, memories of them live on…



  1. pretty nice story of your little David.

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