The Well-Engineered Family

It’s a microchip, one-bedroom apartment, and they are a family of four, so there are certain compromises that must be made. They’re in the living room/office/playroom/dining room/family room. Jarda Nehybka is cutting some whole-wheat bread to go with the salad he’s made. Martina, his wife, is holding one-year-old Simonek, who is hurling magnetized alphabet letters off the filing cabinet like missiles. Maximek, who is nearly three, is racing cars on the carpet. Jarda smiles. He never thought he’d have a wife and two tow-headed toddlers, not at this age, 69. Photo by Nancy …

Continue Reading →

The Kindred Spirit

It’s Thanksgiving time, and Kim Parshley is getting ready to make her famous pumpkin pie. She wishes the recipe had been handed down from her grandmother to her mother to her. It wasn’t; she was left to concoct it all by herself. It’s the brown sugar that makes it so famous. And the shortbread-crumb crust. Kim also wishes she were celebrating with the family members God gave her; instead, she’ll be getting together with the circle of friends she has chosen to stand in their stead. She misses her mother and father, who passed to a …

Continue Reading →

The Urban Rider

He doesn’t take the subway. He doesn’t take the bus. When Matthew Nicholas Mastrorocco wants to go someplace, he jumps on his bike and rides like the wind. To go to his job at Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. To go to Coney Island for the day. To visit his parents in West Hempstead. To go to Montauk for an adventure. “I’ve always had a bike,” says Matthew, whose friends call him Matt. “I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first two-wheeler, but I do remember that I …

Continue Reading →

The Church Lady

She starts by saying that she doesn’t have a lot to say. In the 79 years God has allowed her to do good on his earth, Eileen P. Cuhaj has always been the quiet one. It’s hard to break old habits. Her reticence stems from her childhood; she had four older brothers, and it was hard to be heard over them. In a sense, she and silence grew up together. She came in when the Great Depression was in diapers, and she learned to make do. She didn’t know any better. “I had one doll and one doll …

Continue Reading →

The Woman Clothed in History

Leaning on her black-handled cane, Pearl Gould walks carefully until she finds herself safely behind the counter of Broadway Silk Store. Bushy, a cat whose ginger fur is the same color as Pearl’s hair, says hello to her, swishing his tail within inches of a red-and-white-striped hatbox full of vintage buttons. When she was young, Pearl used to be taller, but now she’s barely as big as the bolts of fabric she sells, and sometimes customers spot Bushy before they notice her. A woman comes in to buy a yard of cotton ticking. She’s followed by a …

Continue Reading →