It was my father-in-law’s birthday and I had already gotten the strawberry cheesecake. My husband was preparing a special birthday dinner. One thing was missing: flowers.
I went for the corner bodega, chose two ready-made bouquets that looked cheerful and decided to get some more flowers to create a grand window display.
I picked up a bunch of sunflowers and considered which green stems to buy.
“Don’t you have enough flowers?” said someone behind me.
I turned around in surprise and saw an older man standing on the doorstep.
“I’m looking for matching flowers,” I explained. “What do you mean?”
“You must have 35 stems in just one of those bouquets,” he said. “Why do you need more?”
I asked what he would be happy about when he was 94.
“I’d be happy with three flowers,” he said. “It’s the thought that counts, you know, and besides, what would I do with so many flowers?”
He walked away, his wisdom hanging in the air and making me feel silly.
The test of his advice came over dinner. Was he right that less would be more?
Reader, the birthday boy was happy.
— Rebecca Mattonia
On the corner of Driggs Avenue and Humboldt Street in Greenpoint is a small Polish deli. The man who works there knows me before I knew me, but I couldn’t tell you his name.
My family buys fresh cuts of Polish meat, bread, pickles, horseradish and other charcuterie garnishes from the homeland at the deli.
When I was younger and still living in Queens, I often went with the parent who went to the sandwich shop, purely for selfish reasons.
Like clockwork, the deli man handed my parents change with one hand and handed me a Polish treat, either Krowki or edible gum, with the other.
“And this for the little one,” he would say, stretching out his fist and opening his palm to reveal the precious treat.
My dad still goes to the sandwich shop whenever my family craves, despite crossing the Horace Harding Expressway to Long Island nearly twenty years ago. Last July, while visiting, I joined him on one of his trips. Now that I was fully grown up, I hadn’t been at that crossroads in many years.
From behind a counter full of pickles, head cheese, kielbasa and rye bread, the deli man handed my father his change. With his other hand, he reached for a shelf above the cash register.
He dropped it, turned and opened his fist to reveal three yellow Krowki.
“And this,” he said, “for the little one.”
— Ania Zolyniak
I’m a bus operator for New York City, lately I’ve been driving the M72. Sometimes I use the hazard lights when withdrawing from stops.
One day, an elderly woman, perhaps in her seventies, boarded at 67th and Fifth, just before the bus turns west to pass through the crossroads.
“I like the way you blink the lights,” she said. “My late husband always made them blink as they drove off to say goodbye.”
Her rate was not required that day.
— Timothy Brandoff
The ride home
I was in the middle of my weekly trip from Gowanus to Washington Heights on the A. Sometimes I call an Uber to avoid the 90-minute train ride home. But on this day I couldn’t justify the cost.
On 42nd Street, a small woman got on the subway and sat down next to me. She had the poster for ‘A Strange Loop’.
I had recently seen the show and this woman seemed as fascinated by it as I was. I asked her what she thought of the show, and a flood of thoughts came out.
Before we could imagine, the conductor announced that we had to find a new train: this A would only run to West 145th.
“Where are you going?” I asked
“Dyckman Street,” she said.
It turned out that we lived on the same side of the same street and were only two buildings away from each other.
“Do you want a car into town?” I asked. “I pay.”
We climbed the stairs from the subway and waited for the driver to arrive.
— Katherine Lenhart
A few years ago I took my 15 year old daughter out for dinner at Little Owl in the West Village.
This was when “The Hunger Games” books were very big. At the time, my daughter had done her hair just like Katniss, with an “arena braid.”
The place was busy so we ate at the bar. The bartender was fascinated by my daughter’s hair and they had a long chat. She apologized and disappeared for a while.
When she reappeared, her hair was done just like my daughter’s.
— Tom Parsons
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee