I remember when my father got very sick when I was 8 years old.
After a few months in the hospital he would come home on Sundays. He’d wear a white shirt and blue pants, and bring a small bag. We had very little money then and the women from the Greek church’s philanthropic organization helped us out. That was the summer when I went to their summer camp – the first and last time. I was not used to sleeping on a bunk bed, much less on the top bunk. Since we had to make our beds every morning, mine was full of crumbs. It was virtually impossible to do a good job standing on the flimsy wooden ladder and clean, straighten, tuck.
I remember when brides walked out of their houses and all the neighbors stood around to watch them get in the car, go to the church.
I remember when women (and girls) walked arm in arm.
I remember competing in a television quiz show when I was 17 years old. There were 9 contestants. An older man and I kept winning, so we had to go to the second week. During that time people would recognize me on the street or at work. The second week I eventually lost.
I remember the chilblains in my feet and hands every winter: red, itchy, swollen. Painful. The only remedy we knew: very hot water and salt. I’d immerse my toes and fingers in the scalding water for as long as I could stand it.
I remember the day we left Buenos Aires for New York on Pan American Airlines. It was our first airplane flight. We were all dressed up. I remember reading the EXIT sign on the plane and thinking how thoughtful “they” were wishing me EXITO (Success) on my new life in the United States.
I remember working at Montgomery Ward’s as an OCR typist. There were about 12 of us young women typing letters and numbers on long, green strips of paper from handwritten notes. The first day I confused all the Fs for 7s and had to retype the entire batch.
I remember my first friend at Montgomery Ward – Mary Ann – who changed her last name from Chmielarz to Golden because she wanted to be Jewish.
I remember meeting her every Saturday downtown to go to the Art Institute. We’d have lunch and then lie down on the grass outside the museum pretending to be hippies.
I remember auditioning at the YMCA on Irving Park for the Greek theater company after hearing an announcement on the radio. I got the part of the maid. The clueless, snooping maid.
I remember my first waitressing job at The Beef Pub on Wabash Avenue. I spilled a plate of spaghetti with sauce on a woman’s lap.
I remember my second waitressing job the next day.