At the Women's march

At the Women's march
All Lives Matter

Never Again

Never Again
We Won't Go Back

Saturday, June 30, 2012


It was May of 1968 when I first set foot in Port Washington, New York, a Long Island town known for its good schools, its diverse population, and its convenient commuting. I had flown to New York for the weekend from St. Louis where I had left my three young daughters with a babysitter. David was already here working at his new job, and the two of us had spent two long, tiring days with real estate agents. We hadn’t seen any houses we could afford and would consider, I had to go back Sunday evening, and I was resigned to making another trip in.
            Sunday morning we picked up The New York Times and saw a small ad for a four-bedroom house within walking distance from the Long Island Rail Road station. The owner had placed the ad just that morning and we were the first to respond. Both David and I fell in love with this old colonial nestled in a cul-de-sac before we even set foot inside. When we went in we were even more entranced as we saw that the house was enveloped by the woods behind it, so that every window but one looked out upon greenery. In the back a pulley had been set up between a couple of trees so that the 11-year-old boy living there could swing from one great old oak to another. In the finished basement that had once been living quarters for the father-in-law of a previous owner we saw more evidence of the 11-year-old – a turtle in the claw-footed bathtub.
            The house didn’t have any of the three “musts” on my list: a kitchen large enough to eat in, a lavatory on the first floor, or a playroom for the children. No matter. Love overcomes “musts.” We made an offer on the house immediately. That evening the owner phoned us to say he had received a higher offer and if we wanted the house we would have to meet that. We did, and we moved in before the new school year.

My family lived in this dream house for more than forty years. We took all our meals in the dining room where we looked north at the riot of trees and never missed an eat-in kitchen. We fixed up a playroom down below the first floor (next to the bathroom with the turtle) which the girls hardly spent any time in. And we eventually put in a powder room off the kitchen. We filled the house with our colors and our art and each of us carved out our own special corners. Our extended family members and many dear friends came to visit and enjoy our home with us. These walls were witness to the happiest of times in our family -- and yes, the saddest of times. And always we knew we were living in a very special place.
            Our girls grew up and moved away, and David and I occasionally talked about moving to an apartment in Manhattan now that it was just the two of us, but somehow we still managed to fill our space. He set up an at-home office in one daughter’s former bedroom, we put up guests and exercised on machines in another, and I took over the closet in a third. Years earlier I had set up my office in the playroom space, where I could look out at the trees when I needed to take a daydreaming break. We had paid off the mortgage and saw no reason to leave. And neither of us wanted to clear out the attic or David’s workshop. When people asked whether we thought of moving, David said, “They’ll carry me out of here.” As it turned out, he walked out of the house for the last time himself, suffered a stroke, and died four days later without regaining  consciousness. And now that I was alone after almost 54 years of marriage, the house really was too big.
            And now I feel good knowing that the new family who bought the house has also fallen in love and will be raising their children here and loving the woods and the sunsets and the special sense of being in nature.  They have had their first guest, a gifted poet and photographer who wrote her own paean to this magical place, accessible at


Carol Steel said...

Hello Sally,

What a lovely piece you've written about your home. It is a house that was filled with love and joy when you lived there with your family, and so it continues now that my daughter and her family live there. The trees are magnificent, as is the whole property. The flowers and shrubs were wonderful when I visited in June. You've left a legacy of green and beauty and calm in that home.

Thank you for your generous comments and for sharing my blogpost and my photo.


Sage Leung said...

I wish you that posted some pictures of the house. It is really fulfilling to buy something that you love. And after hearing your story, I can sense that you have lots of good memories in your lovely abode. Why did you decided to sell it? It’s really a waste to let go of it. Anyway, have you found another place for your family? I bet the new owner would certainly feel the joy you felt when you still own that house.

Sally Wendkos Olds said...

Thanks for your comments. I'll look for a picture of the house and will post it here. We took many over the years. And yes, I have many wonderful memories. But after my husband died and our daughters had all moved out, it didn't make sense for me to stay alone in a house with 8 rooms, an attic, and a basement. So I moved to a New York City apartment, and the new young family has started to build their good memories.