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Chapter X - A Crossroad

We had come to a crossroad. I gave a good hard look at our situation and realized it was not good for us to stay in Florham Park trying to hold on. We had no definite plans for our children's future. I explained it to my husband in this way. When anyone has a bad toothache he goes to the dentist and has his tooth pulled out. Now we had a big headache in Florham Park and the best thing for us to do was to leave.

My husband reluctantly agreed. I went to the bank and stated my predicament. The bank officer listened. We did not want to declare bankruptcy. We wanted to leave with clean credit. The officer was sympathetic and offered six months rent-free if we signed the title for our home to the bank. We accepted the terms and proceeded to gather and store supplies from our garden for the coming winter. We worked very hard and sold some of our produce and grapes at the stand.

My husband was now working a few days a week and without mortgage payments we were able to save money for our new move.

The frost came early that year and after the frost there wasn't much produce to preserve. I was well provided with canned tomatoes, pickled peppers, other vegetables and jellies.

Now we had to find a place to live. We did not want to go back and live in the city but that was the best alternative. The commuting expenses would practically be eliminated, especially for Colette. She had found a job in Newark and she required transportation. We decided to move back to the city since transportation would always be a problem with a fast growing family.

The best time for me to look for a place to live would be on Saturday because I still had two young ones at home and they could be cared for on that day.

In the last part of September I began the search. There were many vacant apartments but my family needed a big place so I looked at one family houses. There were not many of those available. When the landlords learned about the size of my family their answers were always a flat "No." They would rather have the house empty than rent to a family as large as mine.

Weekend after weekend was the same. To go home without having found a place to live was always an ordeal for me. It was hard to see so many eyes saying, "What are we going to do now?" It was depressing.

Then a thought occurred to me. After all, the bank had not turned us out in the cold and we still had a roof over our heads. This optimistic thought gave me courage.

Every time I went to the city I found myself looking for a place where there were grass and trees. After living for ten years in the country the cement sidewalks and crowded houses did not appeal to me.

I found an ad in the paper about a rental apartment in suburban Irvington. It was across from Saint Leo's Church and there was a vacant apartment on the second floor. It was not big enough, but it had to do if I was able to get it.

The landlord rented it to me without asking about the size of my family. She told me to bring the deposit to a renting realtor and he gave me a receipt. Now I was not afraid to go home or to see the faces of my family.

My daughter Colette was home for the weekend and wanted to see the place. Colette, an extremely friendly person, inquired from the first floor tenant about the landlady. She was told the landlady did not live in the building. The woman invited my daughter in and began to ask questions about the family. Colette, not experienced with the ways of world, gave all the information the lady asked. She told me that the lady was very cordial.

After all this, I received a letter from the realtor saying the landlord failed to accept the deposit. It was only one week before the sixth month, which the bank had allotted to us, and we still did not have a place to go. I went to see the realtor who handed me my deposit back. I said to him, "What am I going to do? I only have one week left before we will be evicted."

He asked, "Would you be interested in a one family house?" I replied, "Yes, very much."

He drove me to see the house. An older man answered the door and told us that the house belonged to his sister-in-law and he could not take the deposit. He told us to go and see her son, a policeman on duty on Grove Street directing the traffic. The realtor drove to Grove Street where Mr. Brown was directing traffic at the school intersection. He was very busy with children crossing the street. I told him that I had seen his mother's house and would like to rent it. He took the deposit without asking any questions and said the house would be ready the first of the month. I told him we would move in on the second of November, a Saturday. That night I came home and told Colette to stay away from the house until we moved in! After the first experience, she did not even ask for the address!

The last week was very hectic. The children were between feelings of uncertainty and excitement. Helen did not want to move. She had been at the head of her class since the first grade. Now she was in the eighth and she was very popular with her classmates and, almost unbelievably, Miss Lauton loved her.

Tony, in his second year of high school, had joined a cooking class with some of his friends and hated to give it up.

Lee was in the fourth grade and liked school.

Richard and Marie, the youngest, had not yet established attachments.

Lucy was married and living in Madison so she did not like to see us move.

Irma had started high school in Madison and had not yet established roots.

Edward, my sentimental one, gathered some small stones from the driveway as a remembrance of his Florham Park days.

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