I let her in. At worst, she was from social services, which might be a blessing. At best, she was a kind woman. My instincts were all I had, and I trusted her.
“My, my. Look at this place. How many kids live here?” she asked.
“Well, five. But my older sisters are out a lot,” I said.
“When’s the last time you’ve eaten?” she asked.
“I can’t remember,” I replied.
It had to be past 5 p.m. by now, but Mrs. Lipsky came in and straightened up the house, organized our bedroom, then surveyed and cleaned the kitchen. She also threw together a meal out of rice, chicken broth, potatoes and breadcrumbs.
“I have to go, do you mind if I come tomorrow?" she asked. "I made you lunches for school. They are in the frig.”
I was too stunned to speak or have a reaction. “Yes. Are you a fairy godmother?” I asked.
She laughed and hugged me.
This went on for a month or so, and I loved her. We would talk in the morning; then talk again after school. She was interested in what I wanted to do with my life. She brought us food everyday. She eventually met my mother because I was holding her hand in the kitchen one day when my mom made a rare appearance.
“This is Mrs. Lipsky and she has been minding us.”
My mother, wearing a “housekeeping” outfit I had never seen, was dumbstruck; then she started to cry.
Two weeks later we were evicted. We shoved all of our belongings into my mother’s Pinto. What didn’t fit was left on the sculptured lawn. We slept in the park for a few nights, and cleaned up in various gas stations to get dressed for school.
My mother always dropped us off early, so she could go to work, this mystery day job. Mrs. Lipsky was waiting for me outside the school.
“You all come stay with us," she said. "We have a huge attic. Like a dollhouse.”
And we did. It was far away, downtown Detroit. And the attic was like a dollhouse, with a huge bed, fluffy covers, a high ceiling and lots of color. My sister and I would take an hour bus ride to school. I loved living there. I loved her entire family. We sat at their dinner table and ate food that was so delicious I never wanted to leave. Mrs. Lipsky lived with her mom and two sisters, and they taught me to cook, sew, fix my hair properly.
By now the smaller siblings had been taken away, and my mother farmed them out to various friends temporarily. The eldest took off to Florida with a Hells Angel. So it was me and my year-older sister, the one dabbling in heroin.
Two months later, my mom rented a house closer to our school, and we were preparing to leave.
The last day, on the way home from school, as we got off the city bus. A boy, maybe 8, dashed in front it to beat the light and was crushed to death. I was frozen and crying, and then began to shake. Police and ambulances were everywhere. My sister dragged me to the Lipsky’s. I sat on Mrs. Lipsky’s lap and cried for hours. She held me until I fell asleep.
We left the next day. These were undoubtedly the worst years of my life, but sometimes there is an angel, a friend that helps you just because they are good. As time moved on and I grew up, I tried to find her many times with no luck.
I have seen the movie The Help so often I lost count. And it brought all of it back. My life is a success story because I survived under the worst of circumstances (I won’t go into all of them here). I emancipated myself at 15, put myself through high school and college and have had a very successful career. But I owe a lot to Mrs. Lipsky. After we met, I stopped crying myself to sleep for the first time in years, and saw a ray of light. Some people tell me I am giving to a fault, and I can never understand what they mean. And I hope I never do.