Idella Parker, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings', "Perfect Maid"
Tenant home at Cross Creek
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings gained worldwide acclaim after her novel, The Yearling met with great success.Marjorie spent most of the last twenty five years of her life living in a tiny village of Cross Creek in Alachua County, Florida.
She wrote her memoirs which she entitled Cross Creek. In this book a peek inside the world of a rural town and its people is given. She does not stop there though. Colorful, detailed images of the plants, animals, and wildlife that are an important part of day to day life flow out of her mind and onto the page.
An important person emerges too in the telling of her story. This person is Idella Parker whom she would call her perfect maid.
Read about Marjorie and her friend Zora
Idellla had gone to work for Marjorie quite by accident. She had been scheduled to go to work for the Camp family in Ocala. Through a series of twists and turns, Marjorie heard that Idella was looking for work as a cook. She drove out to Idella house and one thing lead to another and Idealla became her cook and much more.
Idella: photo of a picture from Idella's book.
The perfect maid worked for Marjorie Rawlings for about ten years. This remarkable woman, Idella Parker went on to become much more than a maid.
She became a confidant, a source of support, and one to whom Marjorie could turn for a listening ear.
Idellla had gone to work for Marjorie quite by accident. She had been scheduled to go to work for the Camp family in Ocala. Through a series of twists and turns, Marjorie heard that Idealla was looking for work as a cook. She drove out to Idella's house and one thing lead to another and Idealla became her cook and much more.
Idella's Momma did not want Idella to go to work for Marjorie in a village near Island Grove. Too many stories had been told about how, with no explanation, blacks would disappear. Her Momma was afraid that something would happen to her daughter going off with some white woman.
Her Momma had no use for whites. Most African Americans probably felt the same way at that time and understandably so. These citizens of this country really had no privileges of citizenry: unable to vote, unable to sit where they chose on a bus or a train, unable to dine at the same lunch counters with whites. This was a time when all who were created equal found little reality in those words.
Idella had worked for a white family in West Palm Beach and liked working for them a great deal. However a young man was trying to court her and his presence there often caused a scene (of his doing). For that reason she headed back to her home in Reddick, Florida, much further north of West Palm. She heard that a writer lady was looking for a cook. That would begin the years of working for Marjorie Rawlings.
Idella's Mother: Ethel Riley Thompson
About the Photographs
Many of the photographs are photos that I took of pictures in Idella's novel.
Arrival at Cross Creek
When Idella arrived at Cross Creek she was introduced to Martha Mitchens and her family. Martha led Idealla down a short path to a small unpainted tiny house where she would live with the Mitchens family.
Martha took her by the hand and taught her all she needed to know about how to run Marjorie's house. How she liked her breakfast, presented just so on a try with a fresh flower, and cat food for her kitty.
It took Idella a few weeks before she began to make subtle changes in how things would work at Cross Creek. She learned to give Marjorie the quiet and space that she demanded for her writing.
She was a blessing to Marjorie.
Idella when she revisited Cross Creek
Idealla and Martha in the Cross Creek kitchen
This is a short book packed with so much that you would like to know about Idella's life while she was at Cross Creek. Idella tells the story of those years in such a matter of fact, straightforward way that you are turning the pages quickly so see what is next.
Asking too much
Marjorie and Norton Baskin, her second husband, traveled to Crescent Beach for a weekend or longer of relaxation. Idella went along and provided whatever services required of her. On her free time, she was allowed to borrow Marjories' car to travel in to St. Augustine to visit with friends. She also entertained her sisters and friends when she had free time.
Marjorie traveled to New York from time to time and again Idella went along. She spoke of the beauty of the area but she was lonely most of the time during those trips.
There were times when Marjorie would cry and hug idella for comfort she longed for in the periods of her dark moods and depression.
Understanding the relationship between Idella and Marjorie is poignantly expressed by these words of Idella's:
"A person gets wary carrying another persons' misery and woe, and gradually I was beginning to feel that I could not carry Mrs. Baskin's much longer. (Marjorie took Baskin's last name when they married).
Cross Creek is Marjorie's story of living at the Creek, she calls it. She tells of every day life and adventures that occur during her years there. This writer was energized by all of the goings on at her home place. You get to see Marjorie as she tells of life at that time.
Idella became much more than a cook and housekeeper for Marjorie Rawlings. She became a trusted listening ear when Marjorie would pour out her uncertainties. Idella would be there for her when she consumed drink after drink to dull the pain of missing her husband, Norton Baskin who was away running his hotel.
Idella spoke highly of Marjorie explaining how generous she was. She would often think of others and give to others rather than buying things for herself. She would often buy gifts for those in the community who would otherwise have no Christmas gifts.
Idella spoke of how well treated she was by Marjorie as well calling her at one point her "perfect maid."
Marjorie often loaned her car to Idella.
Idella's brother: Edward Milton Thompson
There were times when Idella became weary from carrying the burden of Marjorie's problems---it just became too much. And as you can imagine, listening to the white folks who had been invited to Marjorie's to dine, make fun of the black ladies who were serving them would definitely take its toll as well.
Idella shared much more of her life at Cross Creek and other locations where she traveled to work for Marjorie in her novel, Marjorie Rawlings Perfect Maid.
She clearly admired this woman with whom she spent about ten years of her life.
Idella's first husband: Bernard Young
Dorothy, Idella's sister, with Idella's second husband
Marjorie and Pat, her dog
Marjorie Rawlings Perfect Maid by Idella Parker
Cross Creek by Marjorie Rawlings
© 2013 Patricia Scott