The Washerwoman’s Genes

July 26, 2006

Bluestone Blue

Filed under: Story — by WWG @ 7:56 am

My dad loved bluestone. The town we lived in poured it in the gutters of all our streets. We had a thick swath of it in the road that ran past our house. Most people probably just thought it was gravel. But when you looked at it, it was blue—pale, grayish, a dry chalky color, but definitely blue, and chunky, maybe a third- to a half-inch across. Dad always noticed when they added more.

Undoubtedly he knew it came from upstate, way upstate—in fact, Kingston way. I thought he liked it because it was blue. Blue sky, blue eyes, blue stone.

He dropped me little hints like that: showing enthusiasm for some darned little thing, a thing with a big back story that intersected with his own. But he never actually told me his grandma was from upstate.

He called up-staters “apple-knockers,” a certain tone of glee in his voice. I heard the term more than once. I never made anything of it, since New York has always been known for its apples—that is, until I had to search out the parents of his grandmother, Josephine Burger Davis, and Brooklyn turned out to be a wash. I intuited that the Burgers might be from apple country. It’s true: Esopus to this day has apple farms.

Dad didn’t talk much about himself or the past; of course, I was too young to think of many questions to ask. I was curious—but he often treated my inquiries humorously, and I got hints and not much more. I’d heard of Flatbush. Knowing he was from Brooklyn, I asked if he was from there, and he said yes. But he was laughing. Flatbush—not a nice spot in the sixties. It was my mother who mentioned Prospect Park—and that was a fact. When I began looking on maps for Dad’s childhood neighborhood, I thought I’d find Flatbush near the park, but it’s considerably to the east.

I don’t even know if he ever visited upstate, or whether the bluestone sidewalks were his only reminder of his family’s upstate roots.

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