They lived in a large white two story frame home. In the front a massive wrap -around blue-gray porch graced the house, complete with wide white pillars and a grated gate or fence made of thick cross hatched wood.
During stay over’s when I was a young child, I would hop into my yellow roller skates and glide across the porch, listening to the rumble of wood beneath wheels.
Under the porch I gazed into a fascinating world of musty smells and spiders of all shapes & colors.
Bordering the house along the side were what we later called “firecracker bushes”, tall bushes with huge white, blue and lavender balls of flowers that blossomed in the summer.
Trees bent big branches across part of the sidewalk, creating shade and birdsong during the warmer months.
The front of the house faced one of the main boulevards going into town. Beyond the houses rolled fields and a little bluff towards the distance.
Curb and sidewalk loomed several steps above the street, something I had seen nowhere else.
In back of the house, a large yard bordered backyards of all the neighbors who also lined the boulevard.
Thus, I could look deep into the western horizon, and at sunset, tree-like TV antennas mounted on roofs silhouetted their branches against the twilight sky.
There were two doors to the house, one along the kitchen atop several steps, and the front door which led directly into the living room from the porch.
We always used the kitchen door to go in and out of the house.
My grandma grew waist high forests of dill along the space by the kitchen door, and she used the dill for canning the most delicious pickles I have ever tasted. Unfortunately the family recipe has been lost.
My Grandma, Mary Blockstein was an amazing cook. Her birthday was July 4th, and we enjoyed family get togethers at that time as well as on some Thanksgivings.
She would fix elaborate 5 course meals that would start in the summertime with balls of honeydew, water mellon and cantaloupe, then move into delicious homemade soup, followed by a sumptuous main course, then lush salads followed by some of the most delicious apple pie I’ve ever tasted in my life.
She had brown eyes and long dark graying hair tied around her neck.
Her dining room was filled with elaborate Victorian rugs donned with patterns subtle in color. Large antique cabinets for dishes and other things graced the walls and a pull-ring sliding door that lurked behind a wall could be brought out to separate the living room and dining room areas.
A large piano graced the dining room and it was fun to get my hands on it & play it, even though it was out of tune much of the time.
Below the dining room and living room area, a large tornado cellar beckoned. Steep, narrow steps dropped into the cellar from inside the house (even as a child with small feet I had to really hold on going down those stairs) and large flip up doors accessed the cellar from the back yard, with steep but wider steps.
The cellar, filled with musty smells, also had an old scrub board washer and hand cranked roller style dryer.
Mason jars of canned food decked some of the shelves.
My Grandpa, Harry Blockstein, a somewhat petite man with blue eyes and white hair was a humble kind man. He was sensitive to beauty, and when we were outside and he heard a bird singing in the tree, he would say “yoy… listen to the Cardinal singing..” (or Robin, if it was singing)
He owned a shoe store and both repaired and sold boots. A walk into his store, located on one of the main streets was a visit to an amazing world.
Boxes upon boxes of shoes climbed the shelves along the wall, and partially dissected shoes in repair mode lie on tables. A rich smell of leather filled the air.
He was a very busy man, working 6 days per week, yet despite his schedule, he always remained kind and warm hearted.
During the Summer, the local firehouse blew their siren every night at 9 pm .
Sometimes the weather there was intense; I remember one visit when so much snow fell during dinner that my parents had to pick me up and carry me to the car when it was time to drive home after dark.
My Mom’s brother Bob owned a convertible sports car, and I remember one night when we rode under a magical sky filled with stars and crisp wind rushing upon our faces.
In many ways, this place felt home for me, even though I did not actually live there.
As a child, I always hungered for the Midwest. On trips, it was magical for me when we crossed the border from Pennsylvania & drove into Ohio and the land began to flatten while the sky seemed to grow bigger.
When I got older, I realized that my Grandparent Blockstein’s home felt like Iowa, even though it was in Western Pennsylvania, some 40 miles S.E. of Pittsburgh and I had never set foot in Iowa.
Since then, as I shared my memory of their home with people who grew up in rural Midwest towns from Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota, they universally told me that the home and town that I described could have been lifted right up from their home towns.
This got reinforced in March of 2010, when a strong tornado blew through a town located within two miles of my Grandparent’s home.
One person explained that the curb and sidewalk was so elevated above the street because the original road was probably a dirt road for horse and buggy, and that the steps made it convenient to step from horse and carriage onto the sidewalk.
My Grandma and Grandpa were both very hard working and had a difficult life.
I honor them for who they were, for so hard they worked and for the positive impact that they had on my life