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51 Birch Street


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"With 51 Birch Street, Doug Block has fashioned an engaging and at times even suspenseful mystery out of his family's story and, along the way, a social history of the American family unfolds, from the uptight 50s through the 70s (a swath of story worthy of Updike, Cheever or Roth) to the present."


MIke Olson (age 55)

I saw your film yesterday and was deeply moved by it.
I grew up on Revere Road in Port Washington and was friends with a lot of the kids on Birch Street. I remember the Golumb’s, Merker’s, Korobkin’s among others. So I am familiar with the neighborhood. I bought my parents house so I still live there.

Growing up in that era it was hard to relate to my parents. They had me late in life (they were both around 40) I had a brother who was seven years older. so I don’t know if there was the same amount of attention that younger parents paid towards a new child.

I began to see them as authoritarian figures who I dared not question. This is not to say that they didn’t show me great love and kindness. It was unspoken and delivered in a more practical way.

They would always find the means to buy the me the things I really wanted. Take me to Cub Scouts or play catch. It just seems that people of that generation were not prone to speaking their feelings about us to us.

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I could understand how much they actually loved me. I would go through periods of deep depression and you could see the pain that they were experiencing when it was happening to their child and that nothing they could do would make it better.

Both of them have died, my father in 91’ and my mother in 01’ and the emptiness you experience after they’re gone grows stronger as you get older. You begin to question how good a son you were. It’s not until they’re dead that you realize you could have spent more time with them. I feel ashamed that I couldn’t find the time to spend a few hours each week letting my mother just talk about things in her life.

You yearn to have one more conversation with them so you can ask all the questions that you so desperately want the answers to. As hard as I try I can’t put together our relationship with just photos and stories shared with my older brother.

One of the things that is so great about the film is the diaries your mother kept. To be able to see into her life so deeply must be painful but at the same time a great joy to be able to see her in a very private way.

Too often parents of that generation are seen as less dimensional. They were just as complex as we believe our generation to be it’s just that there was no outlet for them to display their feelings.

I don’t wish to make this a therapy session so in closing i would just like to say you did an amazing job at celebrating your parents and giving people insight into a silent generation of 1950.-60s parents.

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