The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my 80 year old grandmother, Barbara, at my home in Perkasie, PA. As I asked her each question, she answered softly and politely into the microphone as if she was being interviewed for a news segment, but her hands moved dramatically as if they were dramatizing her words for her. Her pale blue eyes glistened as she spoke of her childhood life in West Kensington, and I could see her bringing herself back into the moments she spoke of. Even at 80, she has not lost the playful personality she had at the time of this story - if anything, she is even more of a troublemaker now!

“One nickel please,” The man behind the counter requested happily, handing Barbara her cone. Still laughing at the joke her friend Regina made, she plunged her hand into the pocket of her uniform and dug out the change, making sure not to drop her ice cream as she did so.  

“Barb, I have to show you something!” Regina whispered, her voice full of excitement. She motioned for Barbara to look down and slightly revealed matches and two cigarettes, which were crumpled from being stuffed into her pocket. “Got them from my sister! She said she’ll buy us more if we want ‘em.”  

Barbara inhaled sharply and glanced back at the man working the counter, sure he could hear everything that Regina was saying. “I don’t know, it seems like a bad idea. We should head back to class soon anyway.” Before she could protest any further, Regina dragged her out of the door, plucking the half-melted ice cream from her hand and throwing it in the garbage.  

“We won’t get caught,” Regina muttered, her lips wrapped around the cigarette as she struggled to light a match. “Not like anyone’s around to see us.” As a cloud of smoke escaped from her mouth, she coughed violently and passed one of the cigarettes to Barbara. Pretending she was her father smoking his cigars, she squinted her eyes and took a long drag.  

“Girls!” A woman’s voice boomed from behind them, clearly angry. The two girls whipped around in fear, stomping on their half-finished cigarettes frantically. When they gathered the courage to look up from the pavement, they found their head nun glaring at them, arms crossed. Behind her stood the shop employee, who seemed to be just as frightened as they were. “You should know we are in very close contact with the owners of all of the shops around here,” she raised her eyebrows slightly as if she was expecting a response from the girls, but both were paralyzed in fear. 

After an uncomfortable stretch of silence, Barbara opened her mouth to interject, but realized the only thing that would save her from punishment was snitching on Regina’s sister, who was a hundred times more terrifying than the headmistress when she was angry. She snapped her mouth shut again and accepted her fate, and the headmistress shook her head in disgust.  

“Your sister never would have done this!” She gasped towards Regina as she dragged the girls towards the school by their wrists, leaving Barbara and Regina forced to hold back laughter. 

Breaking School Rules

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1953
Kensington, PA

I interviewed my 80 year old grandmother, Barbara, at my home in Perkasie, PA. As I asked her each question, she answered softly and politely into the microphone as if she was being interviewed for a news segment, but her hands moved dramatically as if they were dramatizing her words for her. Her pale blue eyes glistened as she spoke of her childhood life in West Kensington, and I could see her bringing herself back into the moments she spoke of. Even at 80, she has not lost the playful personality she had at the time of this story - if anything, she is even more of a troublemaker now!

Decade: 1950s
Rating:
Recorded by Jacqueline Benamati on December 9, 2019
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