“We’re Not In Brooklyn Anymore”

Written By: Nancy Gerli Walsh

It was 1970 and I remember the day my life as I knew it changed forever. It was the day my family and I packed up our belongings and moved from Brooklyn to Long Island. It was also the first time any of us
ever laid eyes on the wide open spaces of rural farm land and the myriad of trees that lined the roads as
we got closer to our newly built house. We excitedly opened the front door and ran around the empty rooms that seemed to go on forever. We were free from the confinements of our city life and the cramped space we called home. On our first night in our new home my brother, sister and I left the window open and could hear nothing but the sound of the night breeze blowing though our beautiful tall trees. The woods across the street were filled with the faint sounds of what we would soon learn to be tree frogs and other mysterious night creatures. We awoke in the morning to a small bird that had flown into our bedroom since we did not yet have screens. This never would have happened in Brooklyn and we all saw it as a sign that our new life would be filled with adventures we could never even imagine.

Once we got settled we began exploring our Long Island surroundings. There wasn’t much around and as a child it seemed as if we had this wonderful Island just to ourselves. The Long Island Expressway wasn’t fully built yet and exploring the East End really seemed like driving to the other end of the world. There weren’t any wineries here in 1970 although one would open in 1973. Hargrave Vineyard, founded by Lousia Hargrave and her husband Alex was the very first winery to be built on Long Island. I remember going there as a child with my parents and was amazed at how far away civilization appeared to be. There would soon be more wineries opening and more people coming to the Island, but nothing compared to what the East End has become today.

Once I was able to drive, my real exploring of our Island began. My best friend and I loved taking drives out to the Hamptons. It was a whole other world that was both exciting and intimidating. There were endless shops and restaurants, live music, and summer farm festivals. There were also big beautiful homes that we could only imagine living in. One of our favorite things to do on a weekend was to gather a group of friends and drive out to Shinnecock inlet. Back then you could set up tents on the beach and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, along with the intermittent sound of the fog horn. The black sky met the blackness of the water; the only light was from millions of stars illuminating the beach as we slept. Those remain in my mind and heart as the best summers of my life.

The Hampton towns were places of excitement and discovery. As I got older and moved into my apartment in Manorville, I made the weekend trips as often as I could. My new neighbor Annemarie and I became weekend explorers trying out their trendy restaurants and always celebrity searching. I don’t know how it’s so easy for some people to find celebrities out in the Hamptons, but for me I never had any luck. One night we did hear that Nathan Lane was having dinner at Bridgehampton’s Bobby Vans, so my friend and I rushed over to try and catch a glimpse of him. Of course he was gone by the time we arrived, and I told my friend that if she ever wanted to find a celebrity we should probably split up. If she had any chance it wouldn’t be with me, I was apparently celebrity repellent.

A few years later after I met my husband we were out to dinner at Nick and Toni’s where I heard celebrities often dined. As luck would have it we spotted some of the cast members of Brothers and Sisters, one of our favorite shows. As we sat and ate, we stole glimpses of them eating and then finishing up their dinner. Now, I have heard that when you do spot a celebrity at a restaurant you’re really not supposed to bother them, but I was just so close to finally speaking to one I just couldn’t help it. Our waiter informed us that they were getting the check and if I didn’t want to miss my opportunity I had to “Go for it,” which I did. My husband walked me over to their table and on the way he whispered, “Now, when we get there don’t say you’re sorry, just say hello and tell them we like their show.” The walk to their table seemed like it took forever and as we got closer I felt my heart racing and my mouth getting very dry. When we finally arrived my husband said “Hello,” and before I could stop myself I blurted out, “I’m sorry to bother you.” That is when one of the cast members said, “Don’t say you’re sorry.” To which my husband replied, “That’s what I told her.” Mortified, I could no longer speak but turned to one of the leading ladies of the show and said in a faint voice, “You’re Holly.” To which she replied, “Yes.” Then we shook hands and my husband began a conversation with them, none of which I heard. It was just a blur to me and I felt frozen. That’s it! That’s all I remember. When we got back to our table I was so upset with myself that I am so bad at this. How do other people do it? What’s wrong with me? Of course my husband was really good at it, but then everyone else in the world seemed to be better at it than me. I know one day I will be ready though, and when I finally come face-to-face with a celebrity I will give it another try. The summer is not over yet and there will be many more trips to the Hamptons.

My husband and I were talking and laughing about the Nick and Toni’s incident the other day while at another one of our favorite restaurants, Cowfish in Hampton Bays. The view is absolutely gorgeous, and as I looked around at the homes, boats, and the people, I thought about how much has changed from where I started and how blessed I am to be living out here. It’s a long way from where I was born and the life I knew as a small child. It made me think of one of my favorite movies, “The Wizard of Oz,” when Dorothy realizes she is no longer in Kansas. Looking back, my life in Brooklyn was really kind of black and white, and my family wasn’t one to take risks and venture out past their comfort zone. At least not until they made the decision to move, which was the biggest risk they ever took because they wanted a better life for their children. When I think of the day we moved to Long Island it really is like Dorothy’s experience when she landed in Oz and her new world was full of color. It was both overwhelming and exciting, and the possibilities of what our new lives could be was endless. There would be challenges, some sad times, and many happy memories, with hopefully many more to come. We believed that family was most important but also met new people along the way who were different from us, and who we truly learned from throughout the years. And I realize as Dorothy did at the end of the day, there truly is “No place like home,” and that home for me is right here on Long Island. No, mom and dad, we’re not in Brooklyn anymore, and I am so thankful for it.