They spotted the old Colonial farmhouse just before their marriage in 1919. Bumping along the narrow Saw Mill River Road on a motorcycle, they had a flat tire right next to a ''For Sale'' sign carelessly tacked to a post. ''Look, John,'' said my mother.
The house was nothing special. No running water, no electricity. Just another country home with a barn, meadow, and a squiggle of a river meandering through the back of several acres of land. It perched in a valley surrounded by hills and woodlands. Today's idyllic dream. Yesterday's commonplace. But it was their dream, too, if they could afford the $4,300 price tag. They had come from the city, but the country was their desire.
Children began to be born. Eight years after the fourth, another one arrived, compounding the difficulties of the depression years.
But the house suited the family well. The children flourished, and so did chickens and a turkey or two, as well as a large vegetable garden and a kennel of dogs. There were lean years, but they worked hard, and they were survivors. There was food on the table and clothing on their backs, and they shared what they could spare with the less fortunate.
Now it's 1945. Bells ring, the neighbors gather, smiles brighten the faces of all who gather around the pergola on the south lawn on this balmy August evening. The news has been received: The Japanese have surrendered! Two boys will be coming home from the war. One will not. The joy of the moment overshadows the great sadness of the previous year.
The celebration continues into the night as memories are stirred of the days of air raid drills, darkened windows, and neighborhood ambulance corps maneuvers. It's over! The war is over! Already food and gas rationing are being relegated to the past tense.
Four years pass. A wedding reception on the south lawn. The house is filled with hundreds of gladioluses from Mother's garden. A towering wedding cake adorns a table in the pergola, and guests meander around the old place, the house now a proper country home, with evidence of the good life at every turn. The chickens and turkeys are gone, and a guest house and graded terraces have replaced the chopping block.
The bride is in white satin, a lace veil encircling her face, as bridesmaids clad in shades of aquamarine drift around her. The September sky remains blue, and the sun shines as long as it is able, until it must, of necessity, hide behind the hill.
More years pass. Seven grandchildren (there will be four more) race through the meadow. A sable collie keeps an eye on them as they dance around the perfectly shaped Douglas fir tree that adorned the living room one long-ago Christmas. Tugging on their grandmother's skirt, the little ones are ready for naps and skip along to the other side of the old house to the pergola, where they will curl up for outdoor snacks and naps.
Another September, another wedding. This is to be the last great family gathering. Again, blue skies prevail and the sun shines down in one last beautiful blaze of glory. The house has grown some more and is, by now, the quintessential country home.
I'll miss this old place, but I'm the bride this time, and I'm off to begin a new life. Old family friends smile, and remarks are tossed around about ''the baby'' leaving the nest.
Now there is reason for another visit. The drone of the bulldozer, leveling all that once was - to make way for tons of concrete. A pile of rubble that had been our home. It doesn't matter, we tell ourselves. Like a beloved friend, it will live on.
But had it really ever been? Even the long row of cedar trees (arborvitae, my father always corrected me) that concealed the vegetable garden from the meadow has been toppled.
And then I see it, and I smile. It has survived! The Douglas fir, now thirty feet tall, stands alone in the meadow.