Louella Thomas was a black woman who worked for my family for twenty or thirty years. Well, she worked for my family but Louella was actually my family.
Everyday when I came home from school she always had a peeled apple and a cup cake waiting for me. Then she would sit on the couch and watch Lets Make A Deal and I’d take a nap with my head on her thigh.
Louella would get mad at me because I’d go fishing but I hated throwing the tiny fish back in the lake. So I’d get all her pots and pans, fill them up with lake water, then put the fish in there to swim around. She would find me on the dock, surrounded by pots and pots of sunfish and brim.
I never learned how to make a bed because of Louella, and that problem still haunts me today.
One time, when my mom was crazy mad she sent me upstairs to get a hair brush so she could spank me. I then asked if Louella would come in the room.
“Why?” my mother demanded.
“Because I know she won’t let you beat me to death.”eight year old me said.
Louella also worked for my grandmother, Ruth Stell, on Prospect Avenue. And one day Louella suddenly announced she was going to the Holy Lands with her church. She’d been saving her money for more than two years and was heading to Jerusalem for a week. My grandmother was stunned and indigent and secretly jealous because Louella was making the trip of a life time before she was. Louella brought me back a straw camel from her trip but told me not to show it to my grandmother.
When I was an 18 year old debutante Louella was invited to the Ball. The committee asked my mother to un-invite her becasue she was black. But my mom loved a rightious fight and the committee back down. So, Louella was the first black woman to attend the Debutante Ball. She sat next to my mother and I gave them both a rose during the ceremony.
There was a party after the ball and I remember I begged Louella to say. I didn’t understand why she wanted to leave so early because I was, apparently a moron at eighteen.
I remember Louella just hugged me and said, “I think we’ve done enough for one night, baby girl.”
Yeah, she was pretty smart.