The following is an excerpt from Anita’s memoir, “Divine Sources: A Reporter’s Journey into the Spiritual World”:
As an 8 year-old girl who had a black caretaker living in an all-white community, I learned my first lessons about true evil. I grew up in a blue-collar, steel town in the Illinois flatlands near the Mississippi river.
My caretaker’s name was Myrtle Jones but we called her “Miss Myrtle.”
I felt closer to her than I did my own mother for a time. I loved her so much and thought for the longest time that she was one of my blood relatives..
She took care of us, held us when we were scared, tended to us when we were sick, and cleaned the house. She never told on us when we were bad. In third grade, I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. I was so happy that I could stay home from school for three weeks that as soon as my mother delivered the news and then left the house, I started jumping up and down on the couch in glee.
It was then I heard Miss Myrtle’s voice: “You better settle down there before your Mom come back. You supposed to be quiet. Now you lay down.”
Buzz kill. I lay down immediately as Miss Myrtle, vacuum cleaner in hand, laughed to herself.
My little brother, Tom, lovingly called her “Myrtle the Turtle.” Tom was an active child and my mother couldn’t handle him … but, Miss Myrtle could easily quiet him.
She would also answer all the questions that a curious child had. She was incredibly patient and was the calm in the house. She used to scrub the kitchen floor with a green foam kneepad under her knees. I was always so fascinated that the skin on her knees was cracked and white and that the palms of her hands were white.
So, one day, I just had to ask. I walked up and stood next to her as she scrubbed the floor.
Miss Myrtle? How come you’re brown everywhere but on your knees and the palms of your hands?
She laughed loudly and said, “Well, it’s from takin’ care of you kids. I done scrubbed all the brown off of ’em.”
I, of course, believed her.
Anita M. Busch is a nationally known journalist, having worked for such publications as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair and Time. She is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter and the former film editor of Variety. She also penned regular columns for Entertainment Weekly and Premiere magazines and served as a weekly commentator on NPR serving the Los Angeles market. Prior to that, she worked as an editor and reporter in Chicago covering the advertising business for Advertising Age magazine. She has appeared as an on-camera expert for every major TV and cable news network in the United States and for several media organizations overseas.