I grew up in Bergen County and I must differ with Lucinda Rosenfeld’s attribution of Jared Kushner’s entitlement to his growing up there. I was there somewhat earlier than she was, though.
The neighborhood I grew up in was ethnically mixed, although yes, white. Czech, German, Irish, longer-time American, and, overlaid, Jewish and Christian. We were Democrats and Republicans. We were too working-class to aspire to the heights of New York society. We kids would have disdained that anyway. We had the local playground, the railroad tracks that our parents wished we wouldn’t frequent, and buses to get to the next town. Who needed more? We had good schools that continue to be good. The diversity mix has changed, but diversity there is.
It particularly pains me when I read that Kushner attended a private school in Paramus. Paramus was, for me, a magical place.
My parents had good friends in Paramus, call them Mr. and Mrs. B, who owned quite a bit of land which is now occcupied by those middle-class houses. Visiting them was always a treat. They farmed that land. They were not alone; farm stands were easy to find. As we drove to their house, past where Lord & Taylor now stands, we could see even rows of celery growing in dark earth.
They had fruit trees, blueberries, grapes, and many row crops. Mrs. B canned and froze a lot, and they shared with us. When we visited in the summer, we kids were let loose in the lush lawn and garden, with some admonitions about what we could pick and do. They also had chickens and muscovy ducks, and we often went home with eggs.
There was also a penny candy store on the way that sometimes my father would stop at. Beyond, there was Tice’s Farms, with heavenly donuts that you could watch cooking and apples in the fall. I found the recipe for those donuts some time back.
The summer I was nine or ten, it occurred to me, my brother and sister, and a neighbor brother and sister that it would be nice to visit Mr. and Mrs. B. I knew the way, and we all wanted to see the chickens and ducks, with the off chance that there would be some delicious fruit. So off we went. It did not occur to us to tell our parents.
According to Google Maps, it’s about eight miles. My father usually drove back roads, and the Garden State Parkway did not exist, so we walked sidewalk with not too much traffic. Our ages ranged from about four to whatever I was, but nobody complained, at least not a lot.
Still, we were tired when we got there. It was a work day, so Mr. B was not home. Mrs. B, who taught high school, was home. She urged us to sit down in the Adirondack chairs on the lawn – she would get us some things to drink. When I was older, I realized she must have been horrified for my mother and called her first. When my father came to pick us up that night, there was no punishment, although my parents did make clear that they would appreciate being informed about such adventures in the future.
There was a break between my parents and Mr. and Mrs. B. I went off to college and then graduate school. I knew they sold the property in stages, to be developed, and I occasionally drove past. A few years ago, I went back to New Jersey for a high school reunion. I went to Paramus to look around.
Their house was still there, but others were jammed up against it. A few fruit trees still lined the driveway. The back yard was pretty much gone, and a house sat where the poultry pen had been. The blueberries, grapes, peach trees, all gone. The sycamores along the streets were very large, the neighborhood very established. My memories are from a long time ago.
Kushner’s prep school is on the other side of Route 17. I don’t know that area well, but I wish it weren’t in Paramus.