I saw "The Help." It wrecked me. In a good way. I set about putting my emotions into words on this here blog and simply could not get started. Then I realized that the main person I wanted to communicate with regarding this movie was my daughter. Since she's only 18 months old that's not entirely possible right now, so I wrote her a letter. I publish it here for your eyes today, and for her eyes when the time presents itself.
It is Monday, August 22, 2011. You will be eighteen months old tomorrow! I am not with you right now; I'm out of town on business, so I will miss your eighteen month birthday. However, I'll be home on the 24th and we are gonna have us one big celebration - because eighteen months is kind of a big deal, but also because you with or without an occasion are a big deal to me. So we're gonna eat spaghetti and eat cake and listen to music and watch Elmo and Grover - all of your current favorite things.
I saw a movie tonight called "The Help." I would love to watch it with you someday when you're a little older. This movie stirred up lots of emotions in me. I'd like to think that you are even now realizing that tears can come when someone is happy, or when they are sad, or when they are happy or sad for someone they really care about. Ok, maybe you don't have all of that yet, but I've cried in front of you a couple of times and you did not seem afraid or alarmed. You just studied me for a moment, and then went on with whatever you were doing. That is wonderful, Ava, that you accept people so simply. Anyway, about this movie...
I'm not going to tell you about the plot or the characters, because we will watch it and I want you to have the full experience. But there were women in this movie who, because they had darker skin than the people around them, were treated badly. All of them were treated badly, and some of them were treated very badly. Yet they showed strength and courage and they did not give up on what they believed in. They had hope in their hearts. And you know what I thought? I thought, I want Ava to know about these brave women. She needs to know where she came from, and understand that she also has that strength and courage and hope. You will learn the history of our nation, and parts of it are really bad. You will learn that white people used people of color to do the dirty work, and you will even see the leftovers of this arrangement in our present day. I wish I could protect you from this horrible reality, but I can't. So it's best for us to just face it head on.
People feel a lot of different things when they learn about this. Some people say it's not true, or it's not so bad, or everything is better. These people are lying, and usually people lie because they are afraid. Do not be like them. Other people get angry, and they start fights and call people bad names and break things. These people are also afraid. Please don't be like them.
Then some other people get angry, but they use their anger differently. They use it for good. They take the hardness of that energy and use it to push away the bad parts of our world. Then they take the softness of that energy and use it to increase good things like kindness and respect and love. If you can learn to be like these people, you will be wise.
I am so proud of you, Ava Denise. You are my heart, my very heart walking around in the world and the best thing about me. You love to laugh, and make new friends, and explore new things - that's how I know you have courage and strength inside you already. I simply cannot wait to be your mama for the rest of your life and watch this adventure unfold. I just love you!