Because he was in the elevator all day, there was a little operator’s seat that Chris could fold down from the wall to sit upon. But Chris always stood when he had passengers to take from one floor to another. He had very shiny shoes and a smart cap and uniform with big brass buttons. His pants had gold stripes down the outsides of the legs.
Of course, at the time I never realized that all the elevator operators in these Eastern Parkway apartment buildings—just as all the lavatory attendants—were black. But the memories that came to me so strongly were ones of Chris smiling kindly at me, as he let me operate the elevator and I laughed with delight at the fun of it all. I also remember his folding down the seat for me to sit on, and we would chit-chat together like two old friends.
Later in the day as I sat with a cup of coffee in the Library's cafeteria, I marveled that try as I might, I couldn’t remember the apartment I had lived in for almost five years. The only images in my mind were ones that I had seen in family photographs from the time period. There was nothing of it that was really “mine.”
Yet what DID stick with me in glorious, living color from 41 Eastern Parkway after almost five decades were the simple kindnesses of an old black man toward a very little white boy.
|Elevator Up/Down Lever|