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Bedford Falls

January 5, 2018


We built our home in Madison, Ct. in 1984.

It was a one bedroom, one bath house. 1,100 square feet. It was the same size as the new condo’s just finished west of the town. Even with the land, it cost less than those units.
We were, to our knowledge, the only “Double Income/No Kids” (DINK) Couple in town. Madison was, and is, a “Bedroom Community”. My wife was a lawyer in Stamford and I was a new partner as a newly licensed architect in Branford: So not only were we without issue in the school/parent system, we were commuters, using our new hometown of Madison as a bedroom community for we DINK’s.

We built a small home for ourselves in a place of old in-town homes or new, spec-built McMansions. Who knew how long we would be there, and no body reached out to us except the persons whose backyard we had just purchased to build our home. And they were “older” – although younger than I am now.

As hoped for and planned, I opened my own office, in town, less than 1/2 mile from our home. My wife settled into her employing law firm. Soon I found a building to buy for my office a 1/4 mile away from my first rented office, using a small inheritance for renovation and a down payment. So we owned two places in town.

94 Bradley Road_001

We took a year to find fertility, but we did: we were “older” first-time parents than those around us. We then Immediately built, at great cost to us, the planned 2 bedroom, 1.25 bath addition that rendered our “starter home” into “The 20 Year Home” at 1,800 square feet, where we would raise our (soon) 2 kids.

In about 5 years my wife ended up working 1/8 of a mile from my office and 1/2 a mile from our house for much of our children’s student years. We never missed a parent teacher night, performance or game (I never even missed practices until high school – and I made some of those.)

10 years in another couple, but younger, with one working spouse and soon two kids, wanted me to design a house for them in Madison. That I did. But, they were looking for land, too. I found that a larger than minimum parcel was available, and it actually touched one end of our 1.25 acre site. I theatrically proposed that my “only” (HA) way for working for them was if they Did Not Pay Me. I would do the job for whatever land it took to provide a minimally sized septic system to build a second building on an expanded site. If they said yes we would have two buildings on a 1.87 acre site – owning three structures in Madison.

Our boys were just on the cusp of teen-aging: we either got more space or we would move. The client-soon-friends jumped at the great site and favorable terms. We built their house.Friedman (Madison) 9-12-05_001
Upon knowing this I told my older son, perhaps 10 years old, that we could build a Fun Barn for his and his brother’s play and use; “NO” he said. “I will Not have a ‘Fun Barn’, I will have a ‘Barn of Fun'”. That we did. Then over the next 5 years we built a heated, finished barn. It ended up I used it more than anyone, and gatherings of many people on many occasions use it far more than our children did. But it meant we had “The Forever Home”.

So it’s been 34 years.


Our boys went through the public school system all their 13 years of being students before college. Both were deeply involved in music with other kids, one was engaged in the amazing football program. My wife was part of any number of school activities and other local efforts, I did a fair amount of pro bono work for not-for-profits, including for the town, and my practice has had over 150 local commissions. My wife and I are deeply involved in the local arts group I helped to found 25 years ago. Its my 30th year in business here.


But none of this prepared me for what I experienced last night.

It was a blizzard. I was in the office alone. I could not get my car out of a snow filled parking lot, so I walked home. The only passable place in a time of screaming wind and horizontal snow was the partially plowed street. A 10 minute walk.

It was twilight. There were a few cars out. As I ambled down the semi-plowed street, a car stops next to me: “Want a ride home, Duo?” I do not know his name, smile, say thanks, no, I am good. “You sure?” – yes – thanks!

Then down the road, a snow-blowing woman, unrecognizable by me, across the street, screams “HI DUO!” I scream back and wave.

Further on, I get passed by a truck (one of only a few in the time I have been walking, maybe 7 minutes.) It stops, backs up to me, and in the middle of Route 1, inside a man whose name I space on, yells, “Hey Duo, wanna ride home?” – Ha, I reply, just another 200 feet! “you sure?” – Thanks! I say, on he and I go.

Another truck comes by me, lights flashing on the way to a Volunteer Fireman Call. I get to my drive and turn up it. That truck comes back to my driveway. The unknown person in the truck yells out to me, 40 feet up my drive, “Hey Duo, Everything OK?” – I laugh again and say “I’m home! – THANKS!” He laughs and drives on…

Four people I did not recognize, recognized me, knew where I lived, and just, well, connected in a blizzard at dusk…

I am Home. Like “It’s A Wonderful Life”‘s Jimmy Stewart, who found himself in Bedford Falls, despite any plan or mission to be there, it is the place I have come to be, despite the fact I was not born here. George Bailey was born in Bedford Falls, desperately wanted to leave, but could not, then realized that it was Home. He was in a place of love, despite himself.

I turn out to be George Bailey. Without a plan, without a mission, I am just here – in a pretty normal, small town place, maybe suburbia, maybe just a town. But in 34 years, I have become, somehow, part of it. It has become a part of me.

I never asked for it, or was anything asked of me – I just try and tried to do the right thing. I just ended up here. And will end up here.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2018 2:42 pm

    Just a plain, “me too.” We are very lucky. It’s also “Mayberry by the Sea.”

  2. Meg permalink
    January 5, 2018 3:11 pm

    Great read. Thank you for sharing! As a current DINK and fairly new resident to Madison I found this really comforting. I grew up in a town much like you describe at the end of the post and I hope Madison becomes that for me too, one day. Cheers!

    • January 5, 2018 3:30 pm

      Surprisingly, we came to be fully enfolded. It means more now than I can understand…

  3. Sam Truckenbrodt permalink
    January 5, 2018 10:13 pm

    I would not trade my upbringing in Madison for anything. Magic! I was also blessed to be born on the North Fork of Long Island and contined summers there.. Blessed.

  4. January 6, 2018 11:47 am

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! After your recent mostly harrowing pieces, this heartwarming addition deserves as wide an audience as possible! Thank you for writing all of this stuff, my friend!

  5. January 6, 2018 1:08 pm

    Duo: This latest blog entry of yours is immediately one of my favorites. I second the comments by others, though because I do not know Madison I cannot attest to what has made it feel so much like where you were always destined to be. Regardless, you painted a rich picture for me. In a good way, Madison sounds like a place time has passed by.

  6. January 6, 2018 4:31 pm

    Deepest Thanks For These Reactions: the emotions of unmerited love are daunting: Grace is found in unexpected places…

  7. Leo Smith permalink
    December 13, 2020 11:32 am

    I believe this is the true calling of being a residential architect, to contribute to the quality and well being of the community. Being published and winning awards is great for the ego, but the lasting satisfaction comes from creating homes that enhance the well-being of the families that reside in them. Thanks for sharing this!

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