Luvenia Duckett (1906 – 2005)

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mrs. Duckett–we called her Luvenia–cooked for our family for at least 30 years.  She was quiet and modest.  My father called her a “good Christian lady”–high acclaim since “lady” was never used by whites to describe blacks.    She could not read or write but had a powerful memory for recipes; most had never been written down. She made the most delectable whole wheat biscuits.  I would visit her when she became infirm and kid her
Mrs. Duckett worked for our family for at least 30 years.

Luvenia Duckett (1906 - 2005) with my neice Mary Earle.

about all the biscuits she had made for my mother for parties and receptions.  She would just hang  her head–tired of thinking about those biscuits.  Once I tried to get her to let me videotape her making biscuits.  She agreed but would place herself in front of the camera so you could not see her preparations.  She would just laugh when I ask her to move.  She and I were allies of sorts.  We would save pieces the of white meat of the chicken  for my dog.   She would make a large biscuit for me that I could have later.  She and I would sit in the pantry together when it thundered.  I sat there with her because she was afraid of lightning.  She recalled the time when she saw a lightning fireball come down the chimney, cross the room and go out a window. 

I learned from Luvenia that holding yourself in a dignified manner could sustain you through an unpleasant or menial job and that you could gracefully endure the situations where you could not fight back.   That “looking” quiet was a  calming way of dealing with stress.  Not to rush. She was proud of her job and the respect that came with with it despite the imposition of the racial etiquettes we all had to follow.   There was always the color line.  One of the worst moments in my life was when Lovenia had to go to the doctor with us to  have a vaccine for tuberculosis.  One of my sisters was suspected of having it.  As we got out of the car, my mother pointed Luvenia to the back door.  As she walked in that direction, I told her she was going the wrong way, and she should follow us.  My mother grabbed me and pulled me away.  This was my first encounter with racial segregation. 

What she thought of me or my family, I never knew.  She was “just like family” to us.  One time I tried to interview her but she became stoney faced and unreceptive.  She really didn’t want to talk about her life–perhaps not to white people.  All I got from her was that she was born on the Watson peach farm in Greenville, SC, and then went to live with them to take care of their children.  After the children were grown, she worked for others before she came to our house.  My mother told me that when Luvenia worked for a friend of hers, she stopped by and saw Luvenia on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor.  She knew Luvenia was a gifted cook and hired her right away.    Luvenia died at 99 in the care of her family.

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