Okay - I admit it. Way back, when I was a young girl in pig tails, we had a nanny. We also had a housekeeper. They weren't black, they weren't white. They weren't from an eastern block country. They were Hispanic.
After watching the movie, "The Help" today, I found myself in a quandary of sorts. I detest racism, bigotry and ignorance. If you want to turn my stomach into knots, use the "N" word, and it will send me in 20 different directions of how I can somehow slip crazy glue into your mouth, in order to save the world.
But, I got to thinking about Carmen. Yes, I am pretty sure her name was Carmen. She was a gem of a girl. I remember her from the early 1970's. It might have even been the very late '60's. I even have a vivid recollection of a photograph (actually one of many) where Carmen is a part of the picture of the Irish crew of Gartlan kids, lined up on some family outing. There is one of Carmen holding my hand, as we stood in front of the Santa Barbara Mission. Seeing the picture in my mind today, I believe it was probably the very late '60's, as I was adorned in some hideous '60's styled outfit, plaid or checkerboard print of sorts, with knock knees and 2 ultra blond pigtails. There are a few other that stick in my memory as well. Carmen in a pink polka dot bikini. Nothing too racy, of course. Just some Austin Power-ish fab swimsuit, and all the children with her, while we were at the summer house in Ventura, CA.
There were 4 of us kids in the house. All within 5 years of each other. I was the eldest. I had to set the example, or so my mother told me. I always detested that I would be considered an example, simply because I was a hellion, and always in search of the perfect way to be disobedient. Why on earth would you lay a guilt trip on a kid by making her an example? I do recall the night my parents were having their wedding anniversary party, and someone in the house; I believe it was my Auntie Ruth, said, "Oh, your mother is off to the hospital with your Dad and they are having a baby."!!!!! "Jesus H. Christ", I thought in my mind - another sibling. Great. Like a present or something. And sure enough, the next morning, I believe (if memory serves me correct) Carmen came into my room and informed me that I had a new baby brother. In fact, that baby brother just celebrated his 43rd birthday on August 8th. Happy Birthday Michael!
At any rate, I suppose that my mother and father must have been overwhelmed with having 4 kids, so close in age, and all very young, a big house, and so many social obligations. My mother had a housekeeper who came once a week, to clean. Of course, we were instructed to "pick up our bedrooms prior to 'cleaning lady' coming" - I guess we must have been slobs. I always found irony in having to clean my room before the "cleaning lady" came. Such was the life of a 60's housewife, having bridge parties, smoking cigarettes, and having someone look after your own children and clean your house.
Now, don't interpret this to mean that my mother was in anyway incapable of cleaning. She's a master at it. I owe all my cleaning habits to my mother. I suppose my poor husband is reading this and thinking to himself... "are you smoking dope, Ann?" - the house is a mess. And actually he is correct. Our house is a mess. On any given day you can find some cat hair wafting around, or get up from the leather sofa only to realize you are heavily coated with the dog's hair. And, I have been known to toss my clothing on the floor, where they will pile up for a day or so, until I get some bug up my ass, and decide I need to tidy up. I have been known to iron my bedsheets and even my husband's shirts. Nothing says "I love you honey" more then a freshly pressed shirt. And I get a feeling of being on vacation at the Hilton when I see my bed made with lavender scented bedsheets. Since I gave up drinking, some things just tend to excite me more, I guess.
At any rate, Carmen and the cleaning lady - where were we? Right. Snobbery. As I was watching the movie today, I realized that there was a little, tiny, minuscule level of snobbery at our house. It's not that we were raised with any amount of pretentiousness, but that in that generation, having help was not out of the norm. I can't recall what the cleaning lady or Carmen had for lunch, or what they were paid. I don't even know what happened to them. For this, I feel remorse, as they were part of our lives for a few years. Does that make me a snob? In the movie The Help, one of the main characters recalls vividly, in full blown techni-color, what her black, southern maid was like. The words of wisdom the maid put into her mind. For the life of me, I feel slightly irked at myself for not remembering more about Carmen. She is in the family photo albums, for bloody sakes. What ever happened to her? Did she marry, have a family of her own? Was she truly from Mexico, or some other country of spanish origin?
My grandmother is a very wise woman. She is a great lady. One thing I know about her is that she is proud. And she possesses an overwhelming sense of couth! She would never make some assisine request of someone, when she is able to do it herself. So, I hope I have inherited those genes. I've got 2 hands and a brain...somewhat intact, which is always important to have. I often think that if I had all the money in the world, and not a care to fill my day with, would I employ some one to help me with housework, or shopping? Am I that kind of woman? Nah, nope, nada.
I may be menopausal, and even a bit vain. Sure, its a great dream, something to run through my head, but I just would not have it that way. Carmen, where are you? I wish I had taken more time to dig deeper about you, who you were, where you came from and what became of you after you left my parents' employ. I want to thank you though for holding my hand at the beach, telling me stories and most of all, allowing me to be a little girl in pigtails.