As a little boy, I loved the city bus and black women; they seemed to go hand-in-hand.
 When I was about 5, there was a black woman who worked for us. I use that term loosely, as this woman worked for my mother and father. Her name was Katherine.

She was a beautiful big black woman, and dark skinned.

In those days, blacks were known as  Negroes. To say I was fond of Katherine would be an understatement. I loved Katherine. I don’t know why, but I did. She took good care of me. She seemed to love me; I think she did. So Katherine and I sort of had a deal; we were more than pals; she was like my best friend.

I was just crazy about her, and the best way I could describe it is love. I really don’t remember how long she worked for us. Somehow I actually don’t think it was all that long, and something happened. Something that at the time I didn’t understand at all, and it wasn’t for me to understand. I didn’t know that at the time either, but it wasn’t.

 So there were black women; I feel better calling them black women even though they were Negroes.

It seems there were many black women who worked in the neighborhood as domestics, as housekeepers, as maids. Katherine was ours. In general, it seemed these women worked from about 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I don’t know the starting time for sure, but I do pretty well know the quitting time. And the reason I know this is because of the bus stop.

 Often in the afternoons, about 4:30 or 5 p.m., I would head down the street and round the corner to the bus stop on Hyde Park Boulevard. The reason I did this, like lemmings jumping over a cliff or moths to a flame, was  that it seemed to me I had no choice. I had to go, I had to be there. I had to go down the street, and round the corner to the bus stop. I did this, and so did all the black women going home.

I’d be at the bus stop, like I was waiting for the bus; maybe I might have been a bit over 5, maybe 6 or so, but I really don’t think so. I do know I was young and was waiting for the bus, or waiting on the bus, as the women used to say. And sometimes that bus just wouldn’t come, and sometimes you’d just miss that bus. And that’s part of why I had to be there.

“Was that “the 5” or “the 2”?

“Oh Lord don’t tell me that was ‘the 2.'”

There was the way these women used to walk after a long day. They’d sway and roll as they walked toward the bus, picking up steam, doing their best not to miss the bus. And there was the way they stood in line to get on the bus, once the bus had actually stopped; that was another reason I had to be there. There was something about the hydraulics of the opening and the closing doors of the bus.

Choooa-choooa went the hydraulic sound of those doors. It’s hard to say exactly what it was, but to me it was magic. And then, too, the way they were there, finally getting ready to get on the bus and go home. So I waited to get on the bus too. And they waited to get on the bus, these ladies, my black ladies with a certain crick in their ankle, a certain bend in how they held that sore foot in that tight shoe as they waited to take that last step, getting up on the bus to go home.

Josh K. Grodzins was born and raised in Hyde Park, the first and oldest integrated neighborhood in Chicago. He has also lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, prior to making his home in Camden.