Just past a lovely traditional dining room comes the true drama of the Meadowbrook home shared by Joy Pollock and Burt Siegel: the view from the expansive kitchen and breakfast room windows.
The vista is a wooded wonderland seemingly dropped from a mountaintop, so steep is the descent. And, no, it's not easy to care for such a site, but, Pollock and Siegel agree, the view is worth its challenges in all seasons.
"We maintain it with some help," says Siegel, who retired after serving as executive director for 15 of 30 years at the nonprofit Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Philadelphia.
Pollock, a social activist and retired defense lawyer who specialized in civil defense litigation, began living in the vintage 1960s Montgomery County rancher in 2010 with her husband, Jay (now deceased), and their two children,
"I loved our home then, and I still do," she said. "It's a wonderful family house."
Today, the family photos around the house include those of Siegel's children and grandchildren. Pollock and Siegel share the space as a committed, but unmarried, couple — a clear trend among seniors who face the fact that economically, marriage can be a luxury.
The two recently reflected on how they became reacquainted after knowing each other through Jewish communal life. Also, Pollock and Siegel's late wife were involved alumnae with Philadelphia High School for Girls whose paths often crossed.
"Life can be full of surprises," Pollock suggests, and Siegel agrees.
They merged their two households several years ago into a unified whole that reflects their joint passions.
One key was as to create a kind of "man cave" for Siegel in the home's lower level. There, his vast collections, including exotic masks and butterfly art, have found a home. His book collections are housed on handsome floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and his collection of pipes of all sorts and sizes also is displayed. There's a desk nearby.
So it's no surprise that they are ready for the joyful Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which begins this year at sundown Dec. 2.
Hanukkah is known as "the Miracle of Lights," so named because oil predicted to burn only one day in a desecrated temple instead lasted for eight days. Two prime holiday symbols — the menorah, the traditional candleholder, and the dreidel, a spinning top that children love — are at the ready.
Along with Judaism, art is another joint passion, with examples throughout the home. One mutual favorite is the portrait of a woman purchased at a Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts student show years ago. It hangs in the living room. Other art, much of it collected on their travels, includes string masks and abstract and realist paintings.
But perhaps their favorite collection, they say, is the depictions of family babies and events such as weddings, as testimony to how families grow and expand.
"We feel both proud and fortunate to live as American Jews," Siegel says.
"And it's wonderful to celebrate Hanukkah together in the home we now share and love," Pollock says. "That's our miracle."