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By , berlin, NJ
She was drinking coffee at a small wooden table when I walked towards her. Starring in the green yard, gated by tall bushes, she only acknowledged me by saying, “Look at that hummingbird. Absolutely gorgeous.” I followed her gaze to a bird feeding post in the corner adjacent to us. “I like watching the birds. Watching them fight each other for the food.” I smiled at her twisted enjoyment and finally she looked up at me. I started on the spiel of my project. Before I could finish she said, “Sit.”

Annie Stanecki lived a simple life. She’ll say it wasn’t interesting because of it’s timing. World War II and the Great Depression happened while she was in her twenties. She grew up with 9 brothers and sisters in Nutley, New York. All the way up near Canada. I asked about her childhood, but she couldn’t remember much. Annie also suffers from a mild form of dementia, which added the perfect spark to our conversation.

Out of her 9 siblings, she thinks all of them are married. Except her brother Harry, but he died anyway, she said. Her childhood at this point in her memory consists of scattered recall of a pool in the backyard and winters blanketed by several feet of snow. And school. But it was much different from today’s schooling. She learned the basics of reading, writing, and classes specific to women such as sewing and other domestic work. Did she go to college after? Absolutely not. She was so happy to graduate so she could finally get a job, as her older siblings did before her.

Once out of high school, she worked in her uncle’s restaurant. A greek place, of course. Soon after, though, when she turned 18, she started working at Western Electric. She loved the job. Thought it was interesting work and this was during the war. What did she do though? Something with some parts, she forgot which ones, though. “I haven’t done anything since, honest.” She joked. “I just don’t have an interesting life.”

“What about your husband? Were you ever married?” I moved on, not believing that was all she had to say. Jules. Well, Julius Stanecki was a fine young man. They met…somewhere in New York. He was a friend of a friend. But she didn’t remember. He died in 1991. Had served in the marine core before until he ended up at a local print shop in Toms River. She had two daughters, Debra Lynn and Patricia Anne. She doesn’t know what they do for a living, but she they brought her to Acorn Glen and visit regularly.

Unfortunately, though it is sad to say, Annie’s life was not very interesting from a writing/short story standpoint, but it was her feisty attitude and genuine happiness that left the strongest impression on me. Annie was one of my favorite people to interview because she was so honest and funny. She had me laughing and she just seemed so at ease with herself.

As her life story was coming to present time, she looked at me and said, “So what about you kid? What’s your story?” I laughed again but when I looked up at her, she looked at me curiously.
“Uhh.. well my life is complicated.” I stuttered. Embarrassed to be on the spot.

“Where do you live? Around here?”
“Nope, I live in South Jersey”
“Good!” She said confidently, almost relieved.
“Why’s that good?” I asked. Genuinely curious
“Well the population is bigger there than it is here.”
“Really?”
“Well, I think so. There aren’t many people around here. Are there?”
She looked towards the bird feeder.
“What will you major in, in college?” She skipped ahead.
“I think English, maybe Spanish too.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” She continued.
“Haha, actually yes I do.”
“That’s nice! What’s his name? What does he do?”
“His name is Dylan. He plays soccer and basketball.”
“He doesn’t go to school?” she questioned, confused.
“No he does. He’s going to college next year too.”
“Oh how great! What about him? What does he want to study?”
“I think, history.” I lied, but kept on anyway
“Smart boy. Chemistry is some hard stuff. I never learned much about science. Bored me.”
I laughed again. I couldn’t help myself.

I looked at the time and realized we had been talking for over twenty minutes. I was going to be late for Euro. Shocker. I asked if she had any other questions for me.

“Do you have a green thumb?” She snapped without hesitation.
Laughter again as I answered, “No, Do you?”
“I forget.”



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