On Presidents’ Day, about three dozen people of various ages gathered at the entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a family birdwatching walk. You could not have wished for better winter weather: sunny, not too cold, light breeze.
Our guide, a woman in a bucket hat with colorful bird prints, made some introductory remarks and we set off.
‘Yellow-bellied juicer,’ she cried 10 minutes after walking.
The group stopped in his tracks. Binoculars were raised, fingers pointed, sighting tips shared.
The other birds we encountered were a downy woodpecker, a Cooper’s hawk (warning cries of a blue jay alerted us to its presence) and a white-throated sparrow camouflaged in the dense branches of a shrub.
Towards the end of the walk, a bird began to sing somewhere further along.
“Cardinal,” the guide announced, and the search began.
In the flurry of activity, I wondered if anyone else was paying attention to the beautiful whistled tune.
“Isn’t the singing great?” I asked, loud enough for everyone to hear.
At least one other member of the group, a man, heard me.
“Sounds like a car alarm,” he said.
— Roth Wilkofsky
It was about 1952. I was 10 and I liked that my family had to transfer from downtown D to the local AA on West Fourth Street.
The vertical I-beams on the platform there had vending machines dispensing miniature Suchard chocolate bars for a penny a pop.
I used to pull the little plungers to see if chocolate bars would magically appear without the required pennies.
One day, ta-da!: The plungers on all four machines failed, and I filled my pockets with free chocolates just as the locals pulled into the station.
As I boarded the train with my family, I saw another boy approaching.
“Free chocolates!” I yelled, pointing to one of the machines. “It’s stuck!”
As we drove off toward Spring Street, I was happy to see the other boy busy “milking” the machine at breakneck speed.
— Giulio Maestro
A little too late
I boarded the M104 and took a seat behind a grey-haired woman, dressed all in black. The white label on her sweater stuck straight up from her neckline.
I tapped her on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Do you want me to put your label in your sweater?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Where were you three hours ago?”
“You should have called,” I said.
We both laughed.
— Jane Seskin
On an early sunny Saturday in 1975, my friend Beth and I climbed the stairs to the elevated tracks in Far Rockaway and took the A.
The train bumped and thundered along the beach roads, into Brooklyn and then through the tunnel into Manhattan. The lights in the car flickered as the train screeched into each stop along the way.
At Washington Square we jumped off, climbed the stairs to the street and emerged into the bright daylight of a beautiful fall day.
We wandered through Greenwich Village, stopping at stores where teens just a few years older and much hipper than us oversaw a copious inventory of art posters, handmade jewelry, T-shirts, and a wide assortment of other beautifully random items.
The abundance of goods was more than exciting for us. We soaked up the sights and sounds, fluttered enthusiastically over a few small purchases, and did our best to attune to the culture around us.
To save money we all brought a sandwich. At one point we found a side street. We sat on a curb between two parked cars and had our picnic.
Beth’s sandwich had coleslaw, something I never thought I’d add. It caused a seismic shift in how I thought about food.
Later we took the A in Union Square so we were home before dark.
— June holder
I worked as a fourth-grade teacher at a private school on the East Side. As a Christmas gift, the parents had their daughters scratch their names on a silvery picture frame, which I got, wrapped in yards of tissue paper in a Tiffany box.
I cast a graceful look on my face as I unpacked it. I held up the list and smiled at each of the 15 girls who had “signed” it.
After school, I snuck into a pawn shop on Lexington Avenue. The man at the counter looked approvingly at the Tiffany box.
I removed the signature blue lid, took the frame out of the tissue paper and handed it to him.
He stared at it for a few seconds.
“Tell you what,” he said. “I don’t want this, but I’ll buy the box.”
— Mary Jo Robertiello
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee