House Hunting

Yesterday was supposed to be warm. My husband was sad, as he always is, at the departure of summer. I am always happy to see the heat of the summer go. It’s always the most difficult season for me physically.

My husband thought that it would be really nice to do one last out door swim before it got too cold. He rented a car so we could go out to the country to swim.
Renting the car and then driving across Manhattan yesterday was a giant nightmare.  Between the Africa Day Parade and the climate march we needed to get off the island if we expected to not spend our time in a rental car sitting in traffic.
We decided to go to New Jersey and then figure things out once we got there.  We ate here

in Paramus. The Fireplace felt like the sort of restaurant that would benefit from a bit of time with Gordon Ramsey.  But as we ate our fit for an elementary school cafeteria sandwiches I realized that we were not far from where my grandparents were buried so perhaps we could do a pre-Rosh HaShanah  grave visit. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the name of the cemetery and my mother’s memory is not terrific at the moment. I also realized that we were not far from Spring Valley where my mother moved with her parents when she was 14.  They lived there until my grandfather died in 1965. My mother did remember her address so after our lunch we set off for Spring Valley.

On the way we drove through Monsey. Monsey is where lots of Satmar Chassidim live.  I didn’t take photos because Satmars don’t like to have their pictures taken. We saw lots of young Chassidic  riding their bikes peyot flying behind them.
After a stop in a supermarket where we indulged in one of our favorite sports supermarket tourism, we continues on our quest to find my grandparents’ home.

Once Maple Avenue reached Spring Valley we pulled into a strip mall that housed a Cabbibean church, an adult day care center, a Family Dollar store and the Spring Valley municipal offices, including the court and the police station.

We asked a man who had just finished his shopping at Family Dollar how to get to First Avenue, which was where my mother had lived. He gave us  directions and then mentioned that it’s a dangerous drug dealing neighborhood and we would be wise to not get out of our car when we got there.

We mis-followed his directions and then went back to ask the police for directions. They directed us to a different First Avenue in the town of Ramapo. New York has a really complicated system of villages that exist within towns that I completely don’t understand. I believe it has to do with the vaguely feudal land distributions system that existed here during pre-Revolutionary times. I suppose that that village within town system makes sense to someone but my brain refuses to accept  any of it so when I hear it it just bounces away.

Never the less, we drove  to the Ramapo, First Avenue which was a two or three block stretch of new houses.
The landscape just didn't look right. I was ready to just give up.

My husband kept searching on his smartphone and then figured out that First Avenue had been renamed Bethune Boulevard. He mapped out the directions and off we went again in search of  my grandparents’ home.
I remembered the street as having several wide hipped porched houses from about 1910. My mother had told us that she lived in 41 First Avenue.
We found
The house had been knocked down and replaced by this pre-fab multi family dwelling and a commercial warehouse sort of a building.  We didn't get out of the car as the nice man from the parking lot had warned us.

This was the house next door, at 39 Bethune Avenue.
My grandfather owned 41 first Avenue. But he had trouble managing the steps. So in his later years he rented out rooms at 41, but rented an apartment to live in next door at 39. I used to visit my grandparents there. They lived on the first floor. The front porch was not enclosed in those days. I remember sitting with my grandfather on that porch.
After my grandfather died, the hearse was brought to the house and my father recited the El Maleh Rachamim from the porch as my grandparent’s tenants watched solemnly.
Earlier that day, my Great Uncle Nathan brought us balloons. Nathan was orphaned at a young age. He worried about the three of us being sad because our grandfather had died.  My mother was in the kitchen cleaning up and looked outside to see something she thought was at the same time  surreal, oddly beautiful and completely weird, an old man  cavorting on the lawn with three little kids with balloons, as we were waiting for that memorial service on the porch to begin.

That was my last time at the house, except for a drive-by visit with my freshman year roommate who drove me there for a quick look when I was 17.


  1. I am glad you found the house with the memories. I have been thinking about you with the climate march and had been hoping you were at home. But you have created a different memory, which is better.


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