The idea of moving to the suburbs was in the air in the sixties. It even had a name: White Flight. Linda and I just resisted it as long as seemed sensible, which was the point at which we came to realize that without rent control our landlord owned us, that he could charge whatever he wanted, regardless of whether we could afford it or not. We also needed more space as we now had two children. Something needed to be done, and what we did was check out the New York suburbs.
The most appealing of the suburbs was Teaneck, which was about twenty minutes from New York, and not much further from my job north of the George Washington Bridge. Besides proximity, what made Teaneck attractive were its schools and its political liberalism. While much of the rest of the nation was in turmoil about racial integration of just about everything, Teaneck had voluntarily integrated its schools and the town itself. As a matter of fact, a very nice book had been written about Teaneck’s voluntary integration and the success of that move. Teaneck was obviously where Linda and I belonged.
No matter how desirable the move to the suburbs, it was difficult for me. Except for my two year stint in the army, I had never lived outside of a city. The idea of becoming one of those people who grew grass just so it could be cut on Saturdays was too strange for words. And then there were all those trees and bushes! I had promised myself while in the Panamanian jungle that if I never saw another leaf, vine, bush or blade of grass, that would be too soon. Well, we made the move to Teaneck. Again with the help of Linda’s parents (we had repaid a previous loan when we sold Apple Hill), we bought a lovely little three bedroom house, at the end of a cul-de-sac, and life began as suburban parents. To my surprise, I found that I liked it. Growing grass to cut it down made no sense, but I really got into it. It was fun decorating our own little house, and making plans to improve the property by planting bushes, water proofing the basement, painting and doing all those other little things a house requires. I also got into the fixing of everything all by myself, as doing things yourself was popular in those days and hiring people to do it was expensive. In one case, with the experience I had acquired at Apple Hill, I redid the plumbing system, which resulted in more than a foot of water in the basement for over a week, until I could figure out a way of getting all that water out of there. It was all a learning experience.
My near-death-experience occurred when Josh, my healthy six-year-old, decided he wanted to climb to the top of a spruce growing on our property. Being a child of the athletic variety, he easily made it to the top. However, once there, he became frightened and needed help getting back down. So, the diligent and rather large father, began his hurried climb to the flimsy tree top to rescue his male offspring. The top of a spruce is rather thin, causing considerable swaying, particularly when additional weight of over two hundred pounds is brought to bear. Was I scared? You bet I was; so scared I didn’t even think of calling the fire department! Somehow, I managed to grab Josh and carry him back down, but it became one of my most memorable moments of suburban life in Teaneck.
AboutAlex Levy was born in Berlin, Germany in 1936. He escaped in his mother's arms on Kristallnacht and spent the War years in hiding under an assumed identity in a Catholic orphanage. This blog chronicles that experience and what happened next.