July 25, 2024
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July 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

“So what made you move now?” This was the question du jour when my family and I moved to Teaneck six years ago. People were curious because we weren’t at that typical stage in life when most people buy homes for growing families. Having spent a long time living in Riverdale, we felt like comfortable big fish in a medium sized pond withstanding the temptation to defect to suburbia like many of our friends. For the previous ten years, we had rented a spacious three bedroom apartment, and then the rent skyrocketed. It was time to own something again and build some equity. After living in a few apartments, the decision was to buy a house, but prices were exorbitant in Riverdale because of the proximity to Manhattan.

What began as looking around gradually became a winding road of house hunting, and the primary Sunday focus. I learned about boilers, hot water heaters and different house styles—all of which never fazed me as an apartment dweller. Along the way, a long list of real estate brokers knew the minute details of our lives, and we perused real estate specifications like menus in a restaurant. All the excuses for not buying had friends snickering and rolling their eyes, figuring it was all talk and no action. They included: ceilings too low, high taxes, too much repair work, sloping backyards, far from shuls, on and on.

We actually came close to signing a contract for a home in New Rochelle, but then redirected our search to Teaneck for several reasons. Some friends who had already done the “big move” over the bridge spoke highly about the variety in shuls, abundant shopping, schools and last but not least, the restaurants. It was also ten minutes from work!

It came as quite a shock when we finally bought the house. One of my Riverdale friends snapped, “Stop it,” she said. “You know you’re not going anywhere.” But as the saying goes, timing is everything and it seemed like the right time. The house felt like home and in need of some tender loving care, including a new roof. The layout reminded us of our apartment, minus Julio and the other 24-hour doormen who greeted me in the lobby each day.

After the moving men left that first night, we felt an unrelenting breeze. Finally realizing the heat wasn’t working, we packed our stuff and went to our family in Englewood for the night. On the drive over, the first sharp pangs of buyer’s remorse hit hard. Maybe this was all a huge mistake? Why did we have to rock the boat? Over the next few days, with the heat back, several boxes unpacked and invitations for Shabbat meals, the pangs of buyer’s remorse eased somewhat.

It’s taken awhile to adapt to certain things like the wildlife who reside in my backyard as they hop, scamper, munch and play tag on my deck. The rogue gangs of squirrels unnerved me at first; I’d never seen so many in one place hanging precariously from tiny tree branches high up. Over the years, I’ve learned the squirrels are tenacious fellows and rarely give you grief by falling onto your property. But some of them are downright spooky when they boldly peer into my window while I’m drinking my morning coffee. In suburbia, you can even spot a turkey or two crossing the street like we did while driving on Sussex Road a few days before Thanksgiving (true story). Now, when we have these sightings, I’ve gotten to the point of thinking “Oh, how quaint, so Norman Rockwell.”

I’m even used to getting back into the car to buy the milk that I’d forgotten while at the store just five minutes ago. That second car is certainly a necessity for the errands we used to do while walking around in Riverdale.

In the winter, I still wax nostalgic when it snows and miss “the guys” who shoveled and scraped the ice; I didn’t even own a shovel back in the day. And all it took was a phone call, and the maintenance men came up to repair leaky faucets, backed up tubs and refrigerators. Nevertheless, there are definite joys of home ownership—that is when the home behaves, utilities are working, and the power stays on. It’s nice to have extra space for family and friends to stay over on Shabbat. On Sukkot, we don’t have to shlep food to a Sukkah in the back of our building, all we have to do is step outside to the deck. I can also sing loudly in the kitchen while I’m cooking knowing that my next door neighbor won’t hear me, and I won’t hear them either!

After six years, we’re still like growing guppies in this huge thriving pond, which often feels overwhelming. What I’ve come to appreciate about this community is the diversity of people and the ever-present opportunity to meet people and make new friends. Just recently, we had Shabbat dinner with some new friends who recently moved from Monsey. At that meal, I met another interesting person who promised to show me how to cook Moroccan food.

And there are shiurim and classes galore! Just within the span of a few weeks, I attended a few different and inspiring classes. There’s always something interesting happening here.

Esther Kook is a Teaneck resident. She’s a teacher and a freelance writer.

By Esther Kook

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