Editor's note: The following was submitted by Maria Ausherman, an author, historian and art teacher. She is the author of The Photographic Legacy of Frances Benjamin Johnston (Gainesville, University Press of Florida, 2009) and the co-author of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawaii (Maui, Koa Books, 2011).
After nearly three adventurous years as a missionary family in Taiwan, our family was happy to be back in America. My father’s Church World Service office overlooked the Hudson River on 475 Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Church, so my parents decided that we should settle back to our family roots in New Jersey, only closer to New York City so my father could commute comfortably on a daily basis.
It was decided that the suburban town of Glen Rock in Bergen County would be a good fit. Situated between the prosperous town of Ridgewood and Fair Lawn, home of the sweet-smelling Nabisco cookie factory, the town named after a glacier rock deposit featured high-achieving schools, a well-endowed public library, elegant small businesses along the main street, and an efficient public transportation system so that no place was too far away by train or bus. My sister and I visited the Community Church more than once a week because the youth programs were attractive. We sang in the choir, attended Bible study and confirmation classes.
I can honestly say that I learned found religion in Glen Rock, and formally became a member of the Dutch Reformed church there. Not only was the Community Church responsible for the foundation of my religious upbringing. My father also had a large role to play. By placing all of the books he studied during his education at New Brunswick seminary next to my secluded bedroom up in the attic, it did not take long for the books featured on these well-stocked shelves to become more attractive than the small black-and-white T.V. located opposite a hanging wicking chair designed to light up another dark corner.
My father’s work meant that he spent most of his time in New York City while the rest of the family was settled in our Mission-styled white stucco home. My mother carefully prepared all the family meals and was in charge of the major household tasks, but she made sure that the children had something to do as well. My two brothers were too young to accept responsibilities for completing any chores, but my sister and I were in charge of setting the dining room table, and then washing and drying the dishes after meals. Being the oldest child, I was in charge of the pets including hamsters that never stopped breeding until we gave them away to more appreciative owners and a large golden retriever that had been the runt of a large litter belonging to one of the minister’s old dogs.
I tried to teach our dog how to live indoors, but one morning while I was walking through the side hallway to the metal milk box on the side of the house to pick up our daily gallon, I noticed he had chewed the poster I made at school that was a collage full of New York Times articles about the first man on the moon. So our family decided the dog should live the rest of his days in the back yard kennel located along the back perimeter of our neighbor’s fence encasing a large swimming pool. Although he stayed out of our way, I walked him regularly throughout the neighborhood so that I gradually learned about the geography of the town punctuated by its major landmarks.
My favorite part of our house was the dining room where a Tiffany-styled rectangular window ensured the room was flooded with colored light on sunny days. Since my piano lined one side of the room, I enjoyed many sunlit hours there. Meals were the major focal point of our family gatherings. My step mother took cooking seriously, and everyone observed the rules of the table during dinner.
It is reassuring to know that the house is relatively unchanged and that all of our household chores ensured that the house could stay well-maintained and protected so that its value would only increase. I easily recognized our family home one recent rainy day while my husband and I were passing through the town, and we took a picture of it before driving away.