Had Hal and I been more astute, we would have posed the following question in grade school:

“Why do we have a “cleaning lady”?
(And the Buellerish follow-up: “Anybody?….Anybody”?).

As a prototypical 50’s housewife, our mother didn’t work. It was neither expected nor requested. Even with money short, her sole job was homemaker and its description succinct: guard the house, feed the kids and wait for her husband to come home. With Tuesday afternoons off for bowling, (teamed with Florrie Bucklan, Shirley Fenton, Elise Kirchenbaum), it was an easy gig.

Aunt Ruth found Katie. She, in course, gave her name to Grandma Cele…all of which made sense. The sisters, to be sure, weren’t young. Our mom, though, was barely thirty. Whatever… it’s funny how these things play out. Came a time when not only did we see Katie (dressed in work clothes) at lunchtime, but with every Seder, every Shivah, there she was, serving in white. This is, by the way, not just euphoric recall; there’s actual proof. My brother’s epic film “The Bogart Chronicles,” (available by request on DVD), memorializes her smile in a way blogging never could.

She was a beautiful woman. Street-wise, a bit younger than our mom, the lady integrated our clan with warmth, candor and wit. She left, moreover, an indelible print.

When it was time to teach “the facts of life,” my just Dad couldn’t. At our Mom’s behest, one night he dragged me with him on a sales call. Intermittently in the car he broached the subject, never quite completing his thoughts. The man kept laughing. Returning home from the west side, pulling in the driveway he finally proclaimed “Tomorrow’s another day,”

Katie taught me the facts of life. And more.

Our mother had never been accused of being a good cook. Katie, however, was. Indeed, she elevated the making of a grilled cheese sandwich to art form. “Toasted cheese,” we called it then, but no one used a toaster. Katie would cover the frying pan with butter, ply down bread, cheese and bread, and then, draping the sandwich with tin foil, pull out the iron and press the sandwich. What resulted was a wafer-thin delicacy still smacking from our lips.

She saw it all in our crew, her tenure spanning divorce, death, and even remarriage. It was “Miss Ruth” and “Miss Cele” and “Miss Elaine” that she worked for, but she loved kids the most. In time, we’d meet hers.

Katie Holly’s death, at too young an age, severed not the cord between us. A friendship cultivated with her husband sustained for years. Indeed, when Horace himself ultimately passed, I was honored to give the eulogy at The House Of Wills. It was my way of saying Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen to a lady who was never The Help, but always family.

One Response to “THE HELP”

  1. jackie says:

    I would like to request a copy of the Bogart Chronicles please.

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