clameatingdog 65M
64 posts
3/12/2006 1:17 pm

Last Read:
3/16/2006 1:50 pm


Pauline was there when I was a child. I was born in 1951, and in the '50's segregation was the way of life. A domestic (in the south) was a cook, cleaning woman, laundress, babysitter, and just about anything else required, for too little money to be considered even sub-decent. Pauline was ours. She came twice or three times a week as I recall.

Along the way, Pauline became a fixture in our home. We couldn't have paid her the money she deserved, and yet she was always there. She and my mother became good friends. That spread to us, the children. Especially me. I liked Pauline. Maybe it was because she understood the open minds of kids and how they don't know a subject is off-limits. I once (I was a wee thing at the time) asked her if white women have regular baby milk, did that mean she had chocolate milk. She thought that was hilarious. When I was older (even when I was grown) she would remind me every few years of that most improper question, and have a laugh at me embarrassment. But it was all in good humor, with no offense taken or meant.

She was unflappable. My other brother, just younger than me, was a hell raiser from an early age. At one point he didn't intend to be told what to do. He yelled at her, "You can't tell me what to do, you're just a n----r!" Yes, I'm sad to say, he used the "N" word. But Pauline, in her most stern and demanding voice, answered, "Yes, I am, and right now I'm in charge... your mother said so!" Like I said, she had a very good understanding of the way kids think. And my brother steamed and fumed, but he never did what he wanted to do that day. He obeyed.

Paul kine had a son and a daughter along the way. There was no question of day care.But the solution was easy. To the dismay of the rest of the neighborhood, my mom allowed her to bring her children and we all played together in our yard. They got the same respect and the same justice in the event of an argument or problem that we did. We were treated alike. To some, I'm sure that was a shame and a disgrace. To us it was fun. And we, the children, learned how to get along many years before Martin Luther King Jr. began to tell us.

Then came the 1960's. Pauline had her own opinions on civil rights, I'm sure. But she never spoke a lot about them. Perhaps it was because with us, there was already a kinship. I know we felt at our home much of it was indeed "outside instigation". But as the news footage began showing the excessive force used by the police on the marchers and the nasty comments began to get air time, it became obvious that in Texas, the racism we knew was only the mildest there was. Black people WERE being beaten, they WERE getting killed, and for nothing more than ordering a hamburger or trying to vote. We began to feel ashamed of some of what we had said in our ignorance.

I began to have nightmares after listening to Stokely Carmichael tell domestics that one highly organized evening of cooks putting rat poison in the families' supper could turn the balance of power for blacks. I dreamed Pauline was going to stab us to death in our sleep, that she caught and held us so Carmichael could murder us, that she WAS going to use rat poison on us. When she found out, she was almost in tears trying to reassure me. She didn't hate us and would never think of doing that. She loved us, and would protect us, not harm us.

I got a letter from my youngest brother recently telling me that Pauline Powell died. She lost her lifelong war with cancer that kept returning until this time, it stayed to do its terminal work. Pauline was in her 80's. But I will remember her for who she was; a woman who reached across the racial barrier to relate as a person, long before it was stylish or expected. She was a domestic. She was also my friend.

Babel__Fish 45F

3/15/2006 4:58 am

WOW Clam!

This is beautiful writing and a wonderful way to remember someone that had a big impact on your life.


clameatingdog 65M

3/15/2006 1:07 pm

Thanks, Babel. Always nice to hear from you.

And I love the new pic. Tasteful, but very sexy. Lucky master.

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