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LOVING A HOUSE
Marcia Kaiser arrived in Glen Rock with her husband, Bruce, in 1975 and became a kindergarten teacher, then the library teacher at Central School, for nearly 25 years. She sat on the Glen Rock Jewish Center and Glen Rock Library boards, and on committees of the teachers' union. In 2017, Marcia started “Valley Writes!” a bedside writing program for patients at Valley Hospital, where she was a writer-in-residence. After 40 years as a teacher and writing coach, Marcia retired and moved to South Orange, but is still an active member of the Glen Rock book club she founded, and returns to Glen Rock often.
From the back seat, I looked out the window and already felt the pull, as the somewhat distracted real estate agent pulled her car into the driveway of the house on Ackerman. I felt it: the pull of the enormous tree on the far side of the house, in full leaf and dominating the property with its, as I would soon learn, copper beech branches. The pull of a single lilac bush in the quiet green expanse of the side lawn. The pull of the green and white awnings, worn and graying, shading the front porch, where the silver-haired woman who lived there was quietly reading a newspaper on a chaise lounge, not too excited by our arrival.
She acknowledged us with a soft “hello” and continued reading. Her hopes were not high. As the agent and I walked through the glass-paned vestibule into the living room, my eyes fell on a large bowl on a table to my left, filled with cards, left by the many real estate agents who had come through this same door with other potential buyers, but left with the uninterested parties. A bowl of rejections for a house I was already beginning to love.
My eyes then fell on the chestnut woodwork everywhere I looked, moldings and doorways shining with chestnut warmth and sturdiness. On our way to the kitchen at the back of the house, we passed through a charming little space the agent called a “butler’s pantry,” and I began imagining.
The small (I saw “cozy”) kitchen had an old stove and an older countertop. A square table with a toaster on it set against the wall under a window, with two chairs. Tucked behind the wall with the table was the tiniest bathroom I had ever seen. I learned it was actually a “water closet,” since it held simply one toilet. I was not deterred.
The kitchen led to a back door, which locked with a skeleton key. Having traveled to Glen Rock from Queens that morning, I found the idea of a skeleton key sweet and telling.
The second floor was unremarkable but full of stories, stories we came to know when we returned to the house a few months later as buyers. The owner, Grace, told us that she and her sister had been born in one of the front bedrooms, some 50 years before. Her father had planted the copper beech tree when the house was built. The large attic did have an occasional squirrel, she said, but it also had a large, banded barrel that once held her mother’s china, and a large, leather-strapped trunk. She happily agreed to let us keep both.
Grace brought us outside, down the porch steps to the front lawn, where she carefully pointed out the hole in the grass where the wooden flagpole should go. She gave us the flag that was always flown from it; it had 48 stars.
I was in love with this house on the day it became ours. But the love grew and deepened as the house became, over 45 years, the fifth member of our family. Her sturdy walls kept my family safe through snowstorms and hurricanes and even when lightning struck the chimney. Each room did its best to accommodate us as we brought two baby girls home, celebrated, mourned, studied, read, entertained, and settled into a chaise lounge on the porch for short naps. We hosted a bat mitzvah in the backyard, a wedding in the living room, and many large family dinners and long weekends.
As our family expanded, our sons-in-law each found comfort and a measure of peace within the walls of this house. Grandchildren played in all the rooms, right up to the attic, and came to know the house by heart.
My kitchen table was the scene of countless hours of writing; it was where I wrote and was also where I helped my students write. Each one, in time, begged to go down to the cellar, which I never allowed, as I told them it was The Scariest Place in Town. They peeked down the cellar stairs and imagined.
From the beginning, I had unconditional love for this house. Yes, it had some flaws and a few problems over the years, but I loved it with a complete, sometimes blinding, devotion.
I loved the house on Ackerman into a Home. It loved me, and all of us, back. 🏠