Friday, February 2, 2018

Old School.

Me: "Are you from Georgia?"
Her: "No. I'm from Alabama."
Me: "Really? Where 'bout?"
Her: "Tuskegee."
Me: "No way!"
Her: "Yes indeed."
Me: *I lean forward and pluck my lapel for her to see my Booker T. Washington pin*
Her: "You went to Tuskegee?"
Me: "Yes, ma'am! The pride of the swift growing south!"
Her: "So you went to Tuskegee AND you my head doctor, huh?"
Me: "Yes, ma'am."

She beamed at me. And I beamed right back.

After that she asked me to take my lapel pin off so that she could see it better. I did as I was told and held it out to her in my palm. She raised my hand up to her eyes, squinted at it carefully, and rubbed her finger over it.

Her: "It was called Tuskegee Institute when I was in school there, you know. I graduated before you was even born! And probably 'fore your parents was born, too."
Me: "You know. . .all the folks who went when it was Tuskegee Institute call themselves 'old school.' So I guess that makes you old school, huh?"
Her: "Nah. That ain't old school. Mother and Daddy? Now THEY was old school. They was there when it was still called TUSKEGEE NORMAL"
Me: "Whoa. Tuskegee NORMAL? Now that IS old school."
Her: "Mmm hmmm. . . It was THE TUSKEGEE NORMAL SCHOOL FOR COLORED TEACHERS." She annunciated every word when she said that and then she let out a sigh. "Mmmm hmmm. You could be a teacher or a farmer--or do home economics. That's what I did. Mother, too."

After that she just sat there . . . first staring at the pin in my hand and then back up at the stiff lapel of my white coat. A complicated expression washed over her face followed by a wistful smile. Then she closed my fingers around the pin, patted my hand and gave it a loving squeeze.

My patient didn't say much more after that. But honestly? She didn't have to. I strapped her onto my back along with the rest of my ancestors and vowed to go even harder.

Damn right.

I love this job.


The Tuskegee Song
by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Tuskegee, thou pride of the swift growing South
We pay thee our homage today
For the worth of thy teaching, the joy of thy care;
And the good we have known 'neath thy sway.
Oh, long-striving mother of diligent sons
And of daughters whose strength is their pride,
We will love thee forever and ever shall walk
Thro' the oncoming years at thy side.


Thy Hand we have held up the difficult steeps,
When painful and slow was the pace,
And onward and upward we've labored with thee
For the glory of God and our race.
The fields smile to greet us, the forests are glad,
The ring of the anvil and hoe
Have a music as thrilling and sweet as a harp
Which thou taught us to hear and to know.


Oh, mother Tuskegee, thou shinest today
As a gem in the fairest of lands;
Thou gavest the Heav'n-blessed power to see
The worth of our minds and our hands.
We thank thee, we bless thee, we pray for thee years
Imploring with grateful accord,
Full fruit for thy striving, time longer to strive,
Sweet love and true labor's reward.

1 comment:

  1. Now that is one beautiful picture and one beautiful post.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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