Remember When

Carolyn Ricapito leads a weekly memoir-writing workshop for seniors co-sponsored by the Butterfield Library in Cold Spring and Philipstown Aging at Home. The Philipstown residents shown here participated in February and March.

My First School
By Carolyn Ricapito
Carolyn Ricapitio
In the morning I eagerly went to my first-grade classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Sewell, I still remember because she taught me to read out of a large book set up on an easel. It was a Dick and Jane book — “See Jane run” — but magic to me. When my father heard her name he said, “I used to date her long ago.” He sailed up in my regard like a balloon off its tether. 

In music class, we listened to pieces played on an old Victrola which usually sounded so crackly that I had to hunt for the notes and words like hunting in a forest with dry leaves underfoot and only catching a glimpse of an elusive rabbit.  

Learning How to Swim
By Ellen Raphael Collins
Ellen Raphael Collins
My dad was a naval dental officer. When I was 4 years old and we were stationed in Key West, Florida, my dad taught me how to swim.

My father and Admiral Quakenbush decided that they could teach me to swim by putting me in an inner tube in the pool and slowing letting the air out. This was working quite well as they stood by in their tropical white uniforms. Then one day during my swimming lesson, they explained that I didn’t really need my inner tube anymore; I promptly sank to the bottom of the pool. My dad took off his shoes, dove in and rescued me.

Strangely, I have always loved water and swimming.

My Mother’s Soup
By Magda Schonfeld
Magda Schonfeld
My mother cooked chicken soup every Friday night just the way my father liked it, boiled chicken with dill and parsley, carrots and parsnips, boiled white potato. She spooned the chicken fat off the top; a clear and light broth, right out of the kitchens of Eastern Europe.

My mother did it all, fulfilled her obligations with expertise, orthodox wife, mother, cook, wage earner. But her heart was hardened by the past, bitter bile rested on her lips, chronic indigestion, she could barely eat the wonderful food she prepared. 

She never even sat down. She bustled around the kitchen, a bastion of frustrated energy. My father would say, “Eat your soup, eat your soup fast, otherwise she’ll throw it in your lap.”

My First Real Job
By Rachel Mueller-Lust
Rachel Mueller-Lust
My first real job was at Burger King in the town where I went to high school. I took the job over the summer with my best friend Nathalie. I was given the role at the counter as a cashier. My friend Nathalie, unfortunately, got the position at the burger board. She flipped burgers on the char grill all day and smelled like burgers.

Although much of the job was stressful — “fast food” should have been a clue — I loved when I got interesting orders. After all, Burger King’s jingle at the time was “Special orders don’t upset us” and “Have it your way.” 

I remember one time when a regular customer asked for a mixture of milkshake and soda. It was kind of like a root beer float but not as easy to accomplish because the ice cream isn’t scooped, it’s extruded from a machine. So I grabbed an extra-large paper cup, first put in the soda and then added the milkshake. The force of the milkshake pouring into the soda caused a volcanic reaction. I watched as the lava flow of milkshake and soda rose up and over the cup edge and all over the place. I managed to clean up the mess and the customer was happy with the concoction, so all was well.

I didn’t stay at the job for very long, however, and left when I got a position as a summer camp counselor in my hometown. Poor Nathalie stayed in her job for the rest of the summer and still smelled like burgers.

The Loss of a Friend
By Antonia Mattiaccio
Antonia Mattiaccio
Suddenly, the sadness and grief consume me as I try to hold back the tears. I’m filled with pain but let me pause a moment and sit in silence. Silence has always comforted me as I would sit in nature and allow my senses to be consumed in all the beauty. Take some deep breaths in and slowly exhale. I repeat this over and over for a few more minutes as my mind begins to focus on the wonderful memories I hold dear. Let me focus on how I can make this easier for you, as well.

Though we are apart and may not see each other as often, we can talk and reminisce and make plans to reunite no matter where you go. Separation can be challenging but it always brings growth in ways we never imagine. Yes, there is so much we will continue to give and care for one another. So as I sit here the memory of you drifts slowly into consciousness and comforts me.

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