THIRTY YEARS IN FIVE BLOCKS
By the nineties lunch counters and canteen food had become a little too old school. The counter was torn out, the old coffee machine was removed, the electronic waffle iron disconnected.....
Auntie Jenny was already at retirement age, and financially comfortable, but she liked being around people. She took a series of part-time jobs, even though she didn't need the money.
However, those jobs did not provide the same satisfaction that working the lunch counter did; none of them were anything like having a bunch of folks pass the time with coffee and cake.
Actually, coffee and lunch, or coffee and a Chinese pastry.
Or coffee and a wedge of pie a la mode.
In addition to the cake.
She's very small now. Her hair is all white, she no longer bothers dying it, though I'm certain she still has it done regularly. At her age, make-up or even a smidge of lipstick would be a little pointless, but she carries her eight decades exceptionally well.
Her hands have shrunk over the years, one of her knees is stiff, and her hearing is not as good as it once was, but her mind is as acute as ever.
I would not call her vivacious, and I'm sure that she was never perky, even when she was a petite young girl. But she's wide awake. Always has been.
And she really likes people.
Which explains why she was heading down to Union Square to enjoy the lights, the bustle of last-ditch Christmas shoppers, the window displays, and the skating rink.
I spent too many hours in the downtown myself yesterday, after a late lunch in Chinatown, and it frazzled my nerves. But then, I don't really like people that much.
Every time I have a steamed chicken bun or a red-bean pastry, I cannot help remembering her floating past and refilling my coffee. If it was slow, we'd talk. Often, on Sunday mornings, I'd spend hours poring over the paper, she'd read some of the news articles, we would discuss world events, and the day would slide effortlessly into afternoon.
She worked at the bakery to be connected.
I went there for the same reason.
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