“Georgia stayed most of the day Monday through Friday and half a day on Saturday. Wages were so low for household and yard help then and nearly everyone had full time maids and yard men at least once a week. We paid Georgia $12 a week plus $3 for cab fare, which was the prevailing wage at that time. She ironed, cleaned the house, cooked and nursed.
“Just the diapers were a big job since there were no Pampers or other disposable diapers at that time and we used cloth diapers. Unless you have ever used cloth diapers you cannot imagine how many a baby goes through in one day. We did have a washing machine but no dryer. On pretty days they were hung on the clothes line, while on bad days they were either hung in the attic or on a rack over the floor furnace in the hall.
“She [Georgia] soon became a member of the family and was like a second mother to Cathy and Mary Carol. She loved them like they were hers and still calls them ‘my children’ . She was a wonderful cook and spoiled us with all the good dishes she turned out. I made the desserts because that is what I liked to cook best, especially when I had someone else to clean up after me.”
“Georgia told us that she had gone to the second or third grade in a little rural school. She had mostly taught herself to read and write and probably could have learned easily if she had had the opportunity. When she came along, blacks in the South did not have the opportunities to become educated like white people. If they went to school at all, it was often to little one room schools on the plantations, and many of them never learned to read or write.”
I have anticipated and dreaded this posting since the blog began. Sara’s words introduced you to her and all her family, and all I had to do was add an observation or two at the end. But you don’t know Georgia Edwards, and it falls on me to present this remarkable saint to the world.
So, what can I say? Except that this gentle black woman, who Cathy and I called Porge, raised in a shack somewhere near Hazlehurst and married twice in cotton fields, somehow made her way up to the Delta and impacted my life in a way that few people ever have or ever will. I simply have no memories of my first years that don’t involve Georgia. My earliest, dim recollections are of trailing along behind her, with one thumb in my mouth and the other hand clutching her apron strings, listening to her hum gospel songs while she cooked and cleaned and ironed. I certainly knew who my mother was, and there was never a better one than Sara, but Georgia was the quiet comforter who just radiated adoration for me. I truly believe that everyone who is mentally stable has had at least one soul in their life who was convinced they could do no wrong, leavened of course by others who were more realistic. I had two of those advocates: My father and my Porge. Blessings upon blessings upon blessings.
It is impossible to live in Greenwood, Mississippi during the last couple of years and not evaluate your life and upbringing in relation to the stories told in The Help. As I sat through that film with my husband, my son and my daughter-in-law, I just lost every scrap of composure about half way through the movie. I knew cruel families who mistreated their maids. They were not admired. And I knew that Georgia was as much a member of the Criss family as were any of the four of us who shared bloodlines. She took care of us and as she aged, we took care of her. One of the darkest days of my life was when Daddy called me, his voice cracking, to tell me that Porge was gone. I was 37, she was just shy of 80, but I felt like the bottom rung of my life’s ladder had been chopped away.