May 25, 2011

Sometimes the years fall away

Kathleen Felch, left, of Hampstead, works on Jackie Elsmore’s nails during a day of pampering.
 Felch was one of eight student volunteers who participated in the Day of Caring.
Union Leader Correspondent
Rae-Ann Iacuzio of Derry puts some finishing
 touches on the elegant fingernails of
Norma Helbig of Derry during Monday’s
Day of Caring, organized by Pinkerton
 Academy and The Upper Room.
DERRY -- OVER COFFEE AND SCONES, Joyce Diemer and Caitlin Harper were just a couple of girls who’d lived in Chester with a mutual love for Siamese cats and well-manicured nails.
The 65-year gap between them was nothing more than time and space.

“I lost my husband a year ago, and I miss him every day. But I’m glad we did so much together,” Diemer said to Harper, 17, a student at Pinkerton Academy. The two were paired up for a Day of Caring through Greater Derry Community Caregivers.

Diemer had some advice for Harper: Make the best of everything and cherish every moment with those you love.

“Just before my husband died we went on a cruise to the Maritimes, in 2009. The weather was perfection and the sea was like 

Lois Gibbs, right, compares manicure notes
 with Dianne Burkinshaw. Both women were treated
to a day of pampering thanks to a group of
 volunteers from Pinkerton Academy.
glass. That would be my best advice to you: Go on some cruises and enjoy your life,” Diemer said.
Monday morning was planned as a day of pampering and girl talk across the generations, as seven Pinkerton Academy students were matched with seven seasoned citizens for manicures and a movie. They met at Journey Church, a newly renovated factory-turned-contemporary house of worship on Tinkham
Seated at tables set up like a coffee house, the multi-generational meet-up began with light refreshments and coffee.

The students were asked to bring along nail polish and lotions, which provided their manicure partners with plenty of colors to choose from.

Shana McKinnon was working on Elaine Duke’s nails.

“It’s called Hot Sexy Pink,” said McKinnon, who mentioned that it was the color Duke had requested by name.

“Yup, I sure did,” said Duke, who had already won McKinnon
 over by mentioning that she’d often regarded her husband of 39 years as “a bit of a pain.”
“I love that,” said McKinnon, sharing another laugh with Duke, between brush strokes.

“We were double dating when we met. He was going out with my friend, but he kept looking in the rearview mirror and winking at me,” said Duke. “He promised me we’d be married at least 57 years, but we didn’t make it.

He didn’t make it.”

Duke met her husband when she was just 17 — the same age McKinnon is now.

“I guess I think about having a family and a husband someday, but right now I’m focused on college and a career,” said McKinnon.

Cindee Tanuma, executive director of the Greater Derry Community Caregivers, had a feeling this event would be a hit for everyone involved.

She said she looks forward to the annual Day of Caring because it gives her a chance to orchestrate important moments, like this one.

“After we do the nails we’re going in to watch an old movie, ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s,’ and then we’re going to have tea sandwiches together,” Tanuma said. “I guess you’d say the real mission of this is for intergenerational learning. Sometimes older individuals have a perception about teen girls today, that maybe they’re not so sweet or innocent. But they quickly learn that there’s something universal about being 16 or 17 — there really is no difference, except their life experiences.”

For the past 13 years, Pinkerton Academy instructor Roger Konstant has been putting out the call each spring for student volunteers who’d like to get involved in their
 community. He connects students with various agencies who assign tasks, including the Caregivers, The Upper Room, Vintage Grace, Meals on Wheels, Camp Carpenter and the Nutfield YMCA.
“I was just thinking about this today while I was driving home, thinking about why we do this every year. It occurred to me that kids in our community get a lot of help through various groups while growing up, like Scouts or Little League or church. A lot of people have helped them along the way, and so this is really just a chance for them to begin to give back,” Konstant said. “I don’t know if they realize how much support they have as kids growing up here, but they come away from this experience really having a great time and learning something in the process.”

Jackie Elsmore was fanning her nails, admiring the handiwork of her hand stylist, Kathleen Felch, 17. Waiting for the movie to start, they’d moved on to small talk.

“Jackie was telling me how she has always loved singing and dancing, and was an entertainer in the USO, and how she beat 10 men swimming once at Lynn Beach,” said Felch. “Oh, and, how she was a goalie for her high school’s hockey team when she was about my age, and lost two teeth when she got hit with the puck.”

“Yeah,” said Elsmore. “I stopped it with my mouth.

I was a bit of a tomboy back then, but thinking about it now, it doesn’t seem so long ago.”

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