Stevensville, PA

martha and matt in a dune buggy

Today we were excited about going down to Stevensville, Pennsylvania, where my parents and I lived during the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s.  We had purchased a large, triangular piece of property in this Northeastern Pennsylvania town of less than 400 people, a beautiful place what with the hills and foliage, in 1972, and then started building a house in the summer of 1976.  Due to the usual delays, the house was not yet complete in the fall, so my parents arranged for me to move in with neighbors who lived about a half mile down the road so I could start school on time.  Problem was, I never met the people, the Yanavitch’s, and I was very unhappy about moving out of Queens at age 14.  At that time the thought that the neighbors might be axe murderers or molesters never entered my mind — that was only later, in a sort of “thank God they were great people” rumination when I was old enough to grasp the possible outcomes of such an arrangement.  It turns out I loved living with this family, who seemed, initially, too good to be true.  I was always waiting for the shoe to drop, but it never did.  Martha and Joe were in their 40s then, Joe working heavy construction and Martha sewing and taking care of her family, including two children, both of whom were away at college at the time.  Taking care of a household in this neck of the woods includes growing things and freezing and canning the results.  Deer meat figures into the equation.  The nearest store is miles away and there are no sidewalks.  Although only 250 miles from 42nd and Broadway, the lifestyle is light years away, for better or worse.  During the four years I lived in this town I both loved it and hated it, depending on how a whole host of other things were working out in my life.  Mostly, though, I took to it, particularly the cooking and canning part.  I liked all the local recipes and the way people lived — how different it was from life in a Queens apartment.  It’s too bad it all fell apart in 1981, after which I returned only as a guest, as I did today.  The drive down was wonderful, and I recognized all the familiar smells along the way.  When that specific hay and cow poop odor wafted in, I knew we were getting close.  Martha made deer meatloaf and a bunch of comforty sides.  There was also cake, but, my goodness!, ’twas from a mix and topped with canned frosting.  I wanted so much to believe that this would never happen here.  That I could “come home” to this house and all the modern crap that is eaten everywhere else for the sake of convenience would never rear its head.  Back in the day Martha would have spread her famous boiled frosting on a real butter cake.  She laughed and laughed as I bitched away about the cake.  Later she took Matt for a spin in that crazy dune buggy she rides around in.

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