I often mention at my book signings that I love many of the pieces in “One on the Ground.”  I once asked a fellow writer if that makes me vain or conceited.  “No,” he replied, “that makes you fulfilled and inspired.”  I liked that.  I have his fear that I will be unable to put my thoughts into words. To my great relief though , inspiration has come my way.  Here’s one example:

Revisiting Long Street

“How do I grieve something that isn’t mine anymore?”   Denise Guido Forkin

Denise Guido grew up at 6038 Long Street.  Her family lived in the quiet community of Clarence Center, New York for over 30 years. Originally built in the 1920s, her parents bought the house in the 1960s and sold the property in 1999 to a young couple, who later sold the home to our family in 2004.  When Continental Flight 3407 crashed into that home on February 12, 2009, Denise grieved.  She had every right to feel a sense of loss.

I have never met Denise Guido, but I originally met her father, Dennis Guido, in 2008 during the annual Clarence Center Volunteer Fire Company’s Labor Day Festival.

The festivities were held at the fire station located on Clarence Center Road directly across from Long Street.  The inconvenience of dealing with a constant stream of people and vehicles passing by our house paled when compared to the excitement of the Labor Day weekend event.  Music, and the luring scents of BBQ chicken and chili drifted down the street.  People arrived early on Saturday morning, large containers clutched in their hands, and patiently stood in line for that chili.  Family and friends stopped by our house on their way to enjoy games of chance, visit vendors selling a variety of goods, or letting the kids try fun rides.  We would walk down for some food prepared by the firemen or local boy scouts, and enjoy entertainment and a brew or two.  The ease of having all this activity down the street could not be beat.

That day in 2008, as we sat on our porch, Dennis walked by and introduced himself. Neighbors had spoken warmly of Mr. Guido, “the cookie man,” a name bestowed on him because he was an Archway Cookie distributor.  6038 Long had been a house where the kids of the neighborhood were always welcome.

We invited him into the house, but he only looked briefly at the family room addition that we had recently finished.  Perhaps he did not want to erase the memories he had retained of what the house looked like when he lived there. He was more interested in seeing if a large tree was still in the back yard, but it had been removed before we purchased the property.

After the crash, someone showed me an article that appeared in a local town newspaper regarding the former owners of 6038 Long. Mr. & Mrs. Guido stood before a painting of the home.

It had to give them an eerie feeling knowing their family had spent so many years at that address.

It was not until the publication of my book, “One on the Ground,” that Dennis Guido entered my life again.  He had contacted the Clarence Historical Society to see if I could connect with him.  We spoke on the phone, and he indicated he would like to show me that painting of 6038 Long Street, and photo albums that his late-wife had compiled. His congenial personality made it impossible for me to refuse his invitation.

Dennis now lives in Silver Lake, New York, a community of cottages that rim sparkling water in pastoral Wyoming County.  As my friend, Debby, and I enjoyed Dennis’ hospitality, I once again found myself wandering through my memories of Long Street.

Mrs. Guido had a painting done of 6038 Long while they resided there.  It depicts the house as it was when we bought it, including a group of bushes that obstructed the front of the porch.  I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at those bushes.  Doug decided they had to go.  Lori’s boyfriend volunteered to assist in that process.  Digging and pulling proved to be insufficient to get the job done, so the guys attached chains to the hitch on the old Chevy Malibu, weaved them around the branches, crossed their fingers and stepped on the gas.  Success!  With the bushes removed, the foundation was painted green, a touch of maroon was added to awnings and trim, and each spring impatiens provided a profusion of color at the side of the house.  There is no photo of that vision of 6038 Long, but a neighbor’s painting did capture the house we knew.

As for the tree Dennis looked for in 2008, he did show me photos of that massive tree, which majestically had provided shade for the back of the house.  The family room we added would have occupied that space.

It felt so good to see photos depicting the beautiful woodwork that highlighted the front hallway, and living room—character that is often missing from homes today.  I laughed as I saw the striped floral wallpaper in the dining room and matching drapes that Doug and I had quickly removed.   After uttering, “I forgot how horrible that was,” I quickly added, “I hope you didn’t put those up?”  My sigh of relief followed when he assured me that combination was the idea of an owner before the Guidos.

I examined with interest the placement of their furniture in each room, comparing it to our ideas on how pieces could be placed to make the most of the small space.

Denise’s bedroom was at the front of the house, which had been Kim’s room.  Those photos caused a spine-chilling sensation for me, as I thought of Jill sitting on the bed angled in one corner the night of the crash.

Dennis reminded me of an old safe and jukebox that they had left in the basement.  They were told the safe was too heavy to remove, and although the jukebox had been dismantled, it still could not be maneuvered up the stairs.  It was reassembled and there when we moved in.  I had completely forgotten about those “blasts from the past.”  Knowing how Doug and I felt about history, it surprises me that we did not want to keep those pieces.  We definitely sold the jukebox, although I cannot recall any difficulty the buyer had removing it.  I felt the safe went too, but perhaps it was still in the basement, although I feel some comment about it would have been made during the retrieval of items from the crash site.

The basement was a hangout for the Guido, and the Wielinski kids.  Dennis also happily recalled the porch being a “gathering place.”

The photos definitely chronicled the many gatherings that took place at 6038 Long Street—birthdays, proms, holidays, and any occasion that could bring together family and friends. The pleasure of those attending the events remained etched in their smiles.

It confirmed what our family experienced, 6038 Long Street was a home filled with love and happiness.

At one point, Dennis, admitted to me that he felt “guilty.”  I was confused as to the reason for his guilt.  His eyes brimmed with tears, and his voice quivered revealing the sincerity of what he told me. “I feel guilty that I waited so long to connect with you, and…I feel guilty that I sold 6038 Long Street and you eventually bought it.”

I was startled by that second revelation, and hopefully I said the right words to relieve any guilt that torments him.  Raising the question, “What if”only brings unnecessary confusion and sadness.  Everything happens for a reason, and our doubts or guilt will not change anything.

Although I haven’t meet Denise Guido, I felt connected to her during my visit with her father.

Many of the photos we viewed that day came from Denise’s collection.  Also included were diagrams she drew before leaving 6038 Long Street, showing the placement of furniture and household items.

I felt that was a remarkable coincidence.  I did similar drawings when I left my childhood home on Herman Street.  Perhaps the hope of preserving memories in that manner is more common than I thought.

Dennis asked me to sign a copy of “One on the Ground” that Denise had purchased online.  As I was doing that, I saw the quote she had written inside the front cover, “How do I grieve something that isn’t mine anymore?”

Why shouldn’t she grieve for the loss of 6038 Long?  She grew up in that house, and the memories she created there shaped who she is today.  So yes, mourn the loss of that physical structure, but take comfort in the fact that the memories you created in that home live on and can give comfort.

Dennis and Denise gave me a gift.  They helped reinforce my memories of 6038 Long Street by sharing their own memories with me, and providing photos that allowed me to once again visualize that home.