The Setting: Julie’s Sweet Shop, College Point, NY
Situated a few blocks from St. Agnes High School.
The Time: 1965
It was an after school Wednesday afternoon. The girls were hanging out in Julie’s Sweet Shop, smoking cigarettes and sharing secrets, as teenaged girls will do. On their walk to Julie’s from St. Agnes, the four girls had applied lipstick, blush, and some mascara. They were skilled at this, handing over their books to each other to free up the needed hands, then doing the same for their friends. The uniform skirts of navy blue serge had been rolled up at the waist to make them fashionably short; the bulky waistbands hidden well beneath the navy blue blazers. Two of them slid into loafers, stuffing their clunky navy blue oxfords into large pocketbooks. There was hair teasing and hair spraying, with Aqua Net creating clouds over their heads as they walked. In their favorite booth in the back of Julie’s, Kay sat next to one of the twins, Lorraine sat opposite her next to the other twin. Lorraine lit up one of her Newport cigarettes, taking a deep drag and tossing her red hair over her shoulder, eliciting the usual laughing comment from one of the twins, “When are you gonna start smoking real cigarettes Lorraine, instead of the candy ones?” Marilyn asked. Lorraine laughed and ignored the comment, like she always did; the twins were diehard Marlboro smokers and devoted to cherry cokes. Lorraine sipped her signature lemon coke, Kay smoked Tareytons and drank her vanilla coke. They stabbed the air with the cigarettes to emphasize a point, rehashing events of the day, most centering around the nuns and the discipline that they endured, though Madelyn and Lorraine were more studious and less inclined to break or bend the rules than Kay and Marilyn were. “Kay!” Madelyn said, “I couldn’t believe Sister Dimitri made you take gym class in your
sox! Did you really forget your sneakers, or were you hoping you’d get out of class?” They all laughed, but Kay didn’t answer. “And then, the fire drill!” Madelyn said, telling the others who were not in the same class. “Kay had to walk the four blocks around the school and back in her sox! Good thing it’s
not that cold out yet!” “Yeah," Kay said with a groan, "but my mother’s gonna kill me when she sees my sox,
they’re black.” “Did Sister Dimitri tell you to go to confession for lying about forgetting your sneakers?”
Marilyn asked. They all laughed, knowing she would probably say that. “Yeah, you better go confess!” Lorraine said with a twist of her mouth.
“Who’s confessing what? Tell me, tell me!” Doris J slid into their booth, asking. “Can I grub a ciggie?” All four gestured to their packs lying on the table. Choosing a Marlboro, Doris lit up and turned her bright smile on all of them. Thought of as the prettiest girl in their junior grade of two hundred plus girls, Doris had flawless skin, a brilliant smile, and sparkly eyes. She lived in Bayside, while they hailed from Elmhurst, having gone thru grammar school together. Doris was a cheerleader, and she was kind to everyone. Now she said, “Confession is so weird, right? When I was seven and we were learning about confession in that time leading up to our first communion, the nuns would walk us over to church once a week to go to confession, like to get practice.” She took a drag on her cigarette. They watched, mesmerized, as her perfect mouth blew the smoke out. “So, I always said the usual, ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been a week since my last confession and I would confess things like, ‘I was mean to my little brother once,’ or ‘I lied to my big sister twice,’ stuff like that, you know. But one day I thought I’d use a different sin. So I said, “Bless me Father for I have sinned; it’s been one week since my last confession.” “What have you done my child?” he asked, “I committed adultery.” Doris got beet red in the face as she finished her words, then, raising her voice, in an almost hysterical squeak above the loud roars and the four girls choking on their flavored cokes, d, “And then I said,” ‘TWICE!’ They screamed with laughter, slapping the table and wiping their eyes, ignoring the looks from the girls in nearby booths. Finally, one of them asked, “What did he say??”
Still laughing, her eyes bluer than ever, Doris said, “He told me to go home and talk to my mother…and to say two Hail Mary’s!”
I dedicate this blog to my dear friend of sixty odd years, Madelyn Burke Graf, who left us too soon, in July 2021, after the most courageous and optimistic battle with cancer than many had ever witnessed, an inspiration to cancer sufferers and survivors, in her community and beyond. Mad was a tireless worker in her community, and a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. As an identical twin, she left behind her other half, Marilyn Burke Edge, who grieves for her while celebrating her life and indomitable spirit.