Aug 29, 2023

‘I Opened the Envelope and Found Three Pictures of Me in an Incubator’


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An unlikely source of baby photos, a sharp jab to the ribs and more reader tales of New York City in this week’s Metropolitan Diary.

Dear Diary:

It was 1980. I had just started at Doctors Hospital on the East Side as a young attending plastic surgeon. I was operating on my first case when Miss Bodine entered the room.

“Is this your first time at Doctors Hospital?” she asked.

“No, Miss Bodine,” I said. “Actually, I was born here.”

“Oh, my,” she said. “Were you a preemie?”

I thought it was a strange question, but I said I had been born prematurely and kept in the hospital before going home.

I finished the surgery, and she was very helpful.

When I returned the next week, Miss Bodine entered the room with a large manila envelope.

“This is for you,” she said.

I opened the envelope and found three pictures of me in an incubator on the day I was born, each with my name written below along with my date of birth.

Miss Bodine, it turned out, had been the head nurse of what was later called the neonatal intensive care unit and had maintained albums with pictures of every newborn kept there.

— John E. Sherman

Dear Diary:

On a sweltering Saturday in summer 1995, I was 25, hung over and waiting for the No. 1 train at 116th Street with a friend. We were on our way to Penn Station to pick up another friend.

When the train arrived, I stepped inside and stopped immediately so that I could lean against the door when it closed. A few moments later, I felt a sharp jab to my ribs and heard a stern, “Step aside!”

I apologized sheepishly.

The elbow jabber turned and looked at me. She was a petite woman about my age, and something happened when our eyes met.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” she said.

“No,” I said, feeling myself blush. “I just moved here from upstate.”

“You apologized,” she said, smiling. “That’s how I knew.”

“I just finished a parks restoration job upstate,” she continued. “Where did you live?”

By the time we got to Penn Station, I had her phone number and we had arranged to meet with a group of her friends and mine at an East Village bar that night.

We talked until 4 a.m., then went for falafels at Mamoun’s on St. Marks until the sun came up. June 27 was our 25th wedding anniversary.

— John Diefendorf

Dear Diary:

Life is slow these days. I check my lobby for packages scheduled to arrive, even though UPS sends me alerts and delivers to my door.

Today, hearing a distant buzzer, I went down just in case. No package, but a woman carrying groceries was waiting outside. The latch stuck as I opened the door.

“Buzzer not working?” she asked.

“It worked earlier today,” I said.

We stepped over to the elevator. Inside was my next-door neighbor, an older woman named Oneida. She had come down to meet her helper. She lit up when she saw us.

She sometimes pops into the hall in her robe and slippers if I’m singing outside my door. She blows me kisses, and I usually get a hug.

Minutes later, I was back upstairs when my doorbell rang. I sprang up to get my package. At the door was Oneida, smiling and holding an origami box I had made for her.

I motioned for her to lift the lid. Then I blew a kiss into the box with both hands and motioned for her to close it. She hugged me as we parted.

— Paul Klenk

Dear Diary:

It was about 25 years ago after a major winter storm that had mostly shut the city down. Despite the bad weather, my boss still expected me to get in for work.

Off I went, climbing the snowy mounds piled up at every intersection in Chelsea. I entered the subway, got on the train and then exited at 42nd Street near Bryant Park.

After coming up the stairs, I found my myself standing at the base of a Matterhorn of snow left behind by the plows clearing Fifth Avenue.

I was trying to figure out what I was going to do when two city workers wearing high boots and snowsuits appeared.

Without a word, they stood on either side of me. Each gently took an arm and lifted me across the snowy mound so I could cross the street.

I clocked into work on time.

— Miriam Zellnik

Dear Diary:

I was leaving my apartment to walk the dog. When I got on the elevator, there was a man there who asked where I was headed and motioned toward the buttons.

“Lobby, please,” I said.

Somewhat confused after noticing that none of the other buttons were lit up, I asked where he was headed.

“I’m the elevator inspector,” he said. “I’ll be here a while.”

— Shannelie Mendez Carlo

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