A brief Church of the Open Road remembrance…
Last night, I was preparing spaghetti carbonara and thinking of my late pal Bob. Bob liked Coors Lite and Rush Limbaugh, but for those indiscretions I could forgive him. Bob let me help him cook.
Working a split shift, Bob’s job was to open up the little school where he was the custodian. He’d clean classrooms and toilets, mop up spills and the occasional vomit, mow the playing field, trim the trees, shovel the snow, freshen the paint, befriend the dispossessed kid and lock up again at night. His hours were seven to eleven and two to six. He rarely went home at lunch, because often times, he’d serve lunch and chat with students as they ate outside under a giant oak. Sometimes, he’d even cook lunch – not for the kids, for the staff.
His Italian roots were not well buried. On a regular basis, the little electric stove in the break room would bubble with his scratch marinara or buttery garlic sauce. Occasionally, although I served as the little school’s principal, Bob would haul me in to sous chef for him, directing me in dicing onions or shucking clams. Just as teachers filed in at noon, his pasta achieved al dente and clams or meatballs were ready to be ladled on top. Garlic bread was there for the sopping. All that was missing was an appropriate Primitivo or Dolcetto.
Bob’s Italian lunches were comfort foods for us all. As our country entered the Gulf War, Bob cooked. If a student lost a mom or dad, Bob cooked. When my tenure was coming to a rather rocky end, Bob cooked. The engaging aromas of a loving Italian kitchen helped pacify the angst brought about by any tumultuous news of the day.
In the aftermath of last week’s insurrection and the assault on the capitol, I prepared this simple spaghetti carbonara, let its fragrance fill the house and reminisced about my late pal Bob. I’d long ago learned that the difference between a janitor and a custodian is that while a janitor is charged with mopping and cleaning, a custodian, by definition, is one who “cares for.”
As I cooked last night, I wondered if there was – anywhere – a Bob who might serve as the custodian of our democracy.
Church of the Open Road Press