Chapter 22 Summary
Today is Mae Mobley’s third birthday. The child is in a “big-girl bed” now because the nursery is being prepared for the new baby. She is not very pretty. Aibileen does not mind, but she always tries to make her prettier for her mother. Aibileen fixes her Baby Girl a special bowl of grits and has her blow out three candles she brought from home just for the occasion. Miss Leefolt is off getting her hair done, but she has purchased a gift: the giant doll Mae Mobley has wanted from the television commercials.
Aibileen begins to bake two birthday cakes. Miss Leefolt wants chocolate and assumes Mae Mobley wants it too, but the maid knows the toddler loves strawberry best of all—so she bakes one of each. After breakfast, Aibileen gives Mae Mobley her old, whiny baby doll. The little girl says, “Aibee, you’re my real mama.” It is not a special moment for Mae Mobley; she is simply stating a fact. The maid tells her she is not her mama, that Miss Leefolt is her mother. She is sure the confusion will go away, but it makes her remember another one of her “children.”
John Green Dudley’s first word was “mama,” and he called everyone he knew the same name. No one worried too much about it until he began dressing up in his sister’s clothes and wearing her perfume. For six years, John’s daddy would take him into the barn and try to beat “the girl out a that boy” until Aibileen could no longer stand it.
When Miss Skeeter asked about her worst day as a maid, Aibileen told her it was a stillbirth; it was really those six years she spent waiting at the door for John Green Dudley’s beating to be over. She wishes now she had told that young boy that he was not a “sideshow freak” or going to hell because he liked boys. She wishes she had filled his ears with good things, like she is doing with Mae Mobley now. Instead, she just waited for him to come back into the house so she could dress his welts.
They hear Miss Leefolt pulling into the carport, and Mae Mobley says they cannot tell or her mother will spank her. Aibileen figures the girl must have referred to her as her mother before and been punished for it. The birthday party goes well (and all the strawberry cake gets eaten). Miss Skeeter slips into the kitchen and reminds Aibileen she will be coming over tonight. Twice she says she will be leaving Monday morning and be gone for three days, and the maid wonders why she felt she had to repeat herself.
At eight thirty Monday morning, Miss Leefolt’s phone rings and Miss Hilly screams at Aibileen to put Elizabeth on the phone. Miss Hilly tells a sleepy Miss Leefolt that Miss Skeeter put her article in the newsletter, and she specifically said old coats are to be dropped off at her house. Miss Leefolt hangs up the phone, throws a housecoat over her nightgown, and drives away. Aibileen and Mae Mobley are confused by the whirlwind of activity and decide to take a walk. As they approach Miss Hilly’s normally quiet street, they notice much more traffic than usual. When they turn the bend and see Miss Hilly’s grand white house, Mae Mobley points and laughs.
Never before has Aibileen seen so many toilets in one place. Every shape, size, and color is represented, and people are gawking, pointing, and laughing at the spectacle. She and Mae Mobley count thirty-two commodes sitting on Miss Hilly’s perfectly manicured lawn. As they get a little closer they see that one of them is even on her front porch. Before the maid can stop her, the toddler runs to a pink pot, drops her drawers, and tinkles in it as Aibileen chases after her and the crowd laughs and honks.
Back at home, Aibileen does not answer the phone, though it rings incessantly. When Miss Leefolt arrives, she is on the phone for hours. By the end of the day, Aibileen is able to piece the story together: Miss Skeeter did print the Bathroom Initiative Miss Hilly wrote, and of course everyone read it. Right underneath was an announcement about dropping off...
(The entire section is 1,351 words.)