February 9th, 2005

Space Cadet

Black History

One of Georgie’s cartoons recently was about Black History month. The main character had gone back in time. She was at her same school, but in the 1950’s. All the teachers and administrators were White. The only African American working at the school was the janitor. Their point was to show how much the world had changed since then. I didn’t pay much attention to the plot. But I was reminded of Nate, the janitor at my junior high school. He was one of the nicest men I ever met.

I don’t know how our friendship began. I was in eight grade and my best friend had gone off to private school. I remember being pretty lonely. Then, somehow I met Nate. He was really nice to me.

At lunchtime, I used to sneak out of the cafeteria into his “office” in the boiler room, and we’d have lunch together. I don’t remember what we’d talk about; I just remember how nice he was. It was a time in my life when I was completely out of sync with the rest of the world. I was screwing up in school, and pissing my folks off at home. But when I hung out with Nate, I felt complete and OK. He treated me as an equal. He provided an oasis of respect in the crazy judgmental world I was living in.

Then, one morning, they announced over the PA that Nate had died. I was so sad. I remember I started crying right there in class. I really loved Nate. The other janitor, Jessie, was very nice to me. We hung out together and talked about Nate. He helped me feel better. But I still missed Nate.

I’m teaching my son that the people who do the cleaning are doing a hard job that helps to keep us safe and healthy. So many Americans don’t even see the people who work so hard to keep things nice for us. I make a point of saying thank you to maids and janitors. I guess, each time I do it, I’m also saying thanks to Nate.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative
  • Tags