NECIE, A LOVE STORY
By Marylou Hadditt
Necie told me she came into my life before I was born. She moved from rural Southern Georgia to Atlanta where found a job polishing silver at my father’s jewelry store. That’s when my mother met her.
“Missophie came up to me and said ‘Now, Necie, I like the way you work. And you smile friendly-like. You know, I’m in a family way and looking for somebody nice and pleasant to look after my home and my baby. ”
Mother told her what she expected in the way of cleaning and cooking, and when the baby was due. Since my mother had no experience with babies, she counted on Necie . Thus Necie joined our family, being at our home from before breakfast until after dinner. She was with us in one apartment, two duplexes, and ultimately our own house for twelve years. Twelve formative years for me.
I was never clear just how many children had been in Necie’s large family. There was a sister in Barnesville – a small town south of Atlanta full of pecan trees and cotton fields. She was called ‘Sister’ and had many children one of whom was named ‘Mary Louise’, after me. All during my growing up time my outgrown clothes went to that other Mary Louise (whom I never met). Often Necie would come into my room, and, in what I now call a blues voice, would shake her head, wave her hands across the clutter of my bedroom, and say, “Boo’sie, you got so much! Gimme some for that other Mary Louise. You don’t need all them toys.” And we would pick out things for that other child I only knew by distant reference – the Mary Louise with brown skin.
An educated woman, Necie finished high school which was rare in those Depression days. She never let anyone forget she was educated or that she came from ‘good’ stock. Her father had been a professor at Tuskegee. Necie adored my mother, whom she called Missophie, as if Miss and Sophie were all one word. She had a hard time explaining to me, who never knew want, that my mother had grown up poor and understood what it was to be needy. Necie talked about ‘new slavery times’. the `1920’s and 1930’s and ‘old slavery times,’ prior to the civil war.
“When I talk to you about your momma”, Necie told me, “you got to listen and know I’m talking away-back times. Times when President Roosevelt was just new and Mrs. Roosevelt hadn’t even begun to speak out for Negroes and Jews. Lots of men were outta work. No jobs, no money. No houses for families to live in. And us Negroes had it worse’n anyone else. Yes, Jesus. Those were hard, hard times.
“You were too young then to understand ’bout those new slavery times. Back then, they’re weren’t many white folks ever gonna treat any Negro with respect. But your momma did. Missophie’d talk to me like I had feelings, just like she did. That I could cry and laugh and love and be mad. She even could see when I felt so sad inside that I thought I was comin’ apart. She understood all that in me. She was a great lady.
“That don’t mean she acted to me like she did to her white friends, or acted to me like I had lots of money like some folks she knew. Noooh! She always acted like I was a black woman, but she always acted with respect and manners. Sayin’ please and thank you. She’d give me days off and paid vacations that none of my friends got. Payin’ me a whole dollar a week moren’ anyone was getting. And a dollar was a lot of money in those days. ”
Misssophie and I had our differences, but we mostly could work ‘em out. She was a real particular about her housekeeping, expecting me to keep the outsides of her pots as clean as the insides. And lemme tell you, with a gas stove they ain’t easy. She’d embroider all these fancy flowers on the sheets and pillow cases then expect me to iron ‘em smooth. Which I did. I don’t particularly like ironing, but I’m good at it.
When it came to you, Boo’sie, she went her way and I went mine. She knew I took a switch to your little teheinie, And I knew she spoiled you big,, she couldn’t do nothing but cry you misbehaved.
She was happy about you doing colored folks things , eating colored folks food, taking you home on my day off. There was one time she walked in and you and me we were just a truckin’ down that forty foot hallway for all we wuz worth. Missoophie sorta shook her head, laughed and laughed, went on back to her room. and never said a word.
We wuz getting along fine, for twelve years, till she hired that Cliffie woman to do the washin’ and ironin’. We didn’t get along from the git-go. She messed up your pretty little dresses when she ironed them, then she blamed it on me. She tole Missophie I was stealing and to this day, I don’t know why Missophie didn’t fire her.
Well now, she knows I use your Momma ‘s Kotex. Missophie told me I could and this old witch, she keeps peeking at me outta the corner of her, eye making believe she’s not looking when I take care of my female needs. I notice one day that a soiled Kotex I’d wrapped up and put in the wastebasket was gone. I didn’t think much about it then but it was strange. That ole witch done it. She up and took that Kotex with my blood on it to Mammy Oooma and got her to put a juju on it. Then when I wasn’t around, she crawled up under the kitchen, my kitchen mind you, the kitchen Misssophie made for me. She crawled up under that kitchen and put a juju on me.
That’s why that happened. I aint never gonna hit anybody over the head. Ceptin’ I did. I got so mad at Cliffie when she’s trying to tell me how to make biscuits for Sunday dinner that I picked up that biscuit sheet and Pow! hit that old witch right on the top of her head. And she being a full head taller than me, I had to reach up high to do it.
I never would of done it if that juju hadn’t been put on me. I tried to explain to Missophie about Cliffie, that it was Cliffie she should fire and not me. But she was a proud lady, your Momma was. She said aint nobody gonna tell her how to run her house. And once’t she made up her mind, there weren’t no changing it.
I called you, Boo’sie lots of times,. Don’t you remember? We both cried on the phone. I wanted so bad to work for Missophie and come back and look after my baby. She wouldn’t take me back, that weren’t what the good Lord had in mind for me.
I wasn’t about to go look for day work. Nobody’d ever treat me as good as Missophie and I sure didn’t want to get all close and lovely with another child and then have to give her up. So I went to beauty culture school and set myself up in a nice little business doing hair in my house. People liked the way I did them up and kept coming back. “God in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.”
Every Christmas, I sent Missophie some of my homemade fruitcake and she’ sent me some pretty jewelry from the store. Once I’d gotten my things outta my room, I never went back to that house.