My dad's parents employed a colored lady named Margret for decades. She helped around the house with light cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Margret is the only one I remember washing my hair gently. I loved for Margret to wash my hair because of that.
Margret had a playful spirit but worked hard and was very good to us and with us.
Mostly my grandparents were respectful to Margret. However, they accused her of "acting like an old nigra" or some variation of that often. I heard nigra often. I was a kid and didn't understand it.
In one act of defiance towards Margret, I spun around and said, "Shut up, you old nigra!" GrandDaddy Quillin was in the driveway and heard me. The trouble that ensued was frightening to me. That was the first day I remember feeling tremendous uncertainty, distrust, confusion, and abject terror. Margret and I were OK but another was hurt terribly that day. I was about 4 or 5 years old then.
I have no memories after that event. But I do know I never referred to Margret in that way again.
When I was 6, my parents split up and I didn't see Margret again until I was in my late teens. I was very glad to see her. Neither of us ever brought up that horrible event. I never referred to Margret with disrespect even though Grandmother Quillin did and often. She didn't understand Margret but Margret understood her.
Margret always liked me and doted on me, when she could. She understood my playful nature and tried to corral it without destroying me in the process. She loved brushing my hair out. I loved her doing it because she talked to me and was so very gentle. Grandmother Quillin was harsh and hard about it.
Life has been confusing in many ways for me. I didn't know what my feelings towards Margret were beyond fondness. As I watched The Help, I began to understand that I love Margret and I look forward to seeing her in Heaven.