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Great Memories Recalled As Ortley Home is Demolished

An essay from a year ago is heartwarming, ironic today

Geralyn LaNeve's home on Fifth Avenue in Ortley Beach was demolished on Friday.

The house was destroyed during Superstorm Sandy, like so many others in her neighborhood. But like the families who once inhabited those other homes – years of great memories remain.

Months before Sandy struck, LaNeve's niece was given an assignment at her high school to write about a place that had been a positive influence in her life. The assignment would serve as a basis for her college essay.

"She had to write about a positive influence in her life and she chose to write about the value of family as experienced in her summer home at 9 Fifth Avenue," said LaNeve.

LaNeve's niece, Marissa Giannantonio, is now getting ready to begin her first year at Marist College, and we thought her essay about her family's home in Ortley Beach would conjure up some good memories for many of us whose homes, year-round or seasonal, were damaged in the storm – and perhaps give us some hope that we'll be able to make some great new ones in the future.

The Following is by Marissa Giannantonio:

My cousin’s foot digs into my side and wakens me from my sleep. I bolt up and wait until my tired eyes adjust to the darkness. The room is filled with bodies – arms and legs intertwined and still. The small house, originally built for four, is now filled to the brim with people sleeping on floors, couches, and even tents in the postage-stamp backyard. This is my great grandfather’s “little dream house,” a small bungalow at the Jersey Shore built on a foundation that is rich in family history, tradition, and values.

Every summer, my parents, brother and I pack up and leave the comfort of our home to gather with our family: aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and of course, the family dogs. At any given time, there could be fifteen or twenty of us having dinner around the picnic table, laughing and playing word games, or riding our bikes to the boardwalk. Our days are spent on the beach, generally in the same spot that my great-grandparents chose long ago. For some reason, we never stray from the beach turf they carved out. Year after year, generation after generation, you’ll find us in the same circle of sand.

The bungalow is my little, safe haven—a place where I feel love, tranquility, and stability of family. Pictures of four family generations cover every inch of the wooden walls. I realize how fortunate I am to have such a close family – even if the closeness wakes me up at night. I view my great-grandfather’s “little dream house” as a symbol for much of what I dream about in life. I am grateful for my great-grandfather’s love of the ocean as it led us to this place. I am grateful for his quest to make a better life here in America, and an even better one for his family. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend college because of the paths he paved many years ago.

While he did not attend college, school was important to him and he dreamed of future generations pursuing higher education. I want to carry on my great-grandfather’s sense of family, perseverance, and enjoyment in life. I aim to push the boundaries of my world in college just as he did when he set sail for this country at the age of eighteen.

I rise from my bed and walk down the photo-filled hallway. I enter the living room, stepping over the sleeping bodies of my relatives and envisioning the journey he took years ago – a crowded boat packed with people excited to start a new life in America. Like these people, I am filled with exhilaration when I think about the years to come. I look forward to the future and all that it entails as I plan to pursue my dreams, continue the legacy of our family, and add more pictures to our wooden walls.

suz August 24, 2013 at 08:40 AM
Great memories you have shared with us. I'm sure we can all relate to your story in one way or another, myself included. As my 'babci' has said time and time over "one page in your life turns to another". We are all stronger than Sandy.
rita August 25, 2013 at 08:39 AM
Beautifully written! This brought me back to my youth, when the entire family....cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents...enjoyed a few weeks at the Jersey Shore. Rita
Ortley August 27, 2013 at 06:58 AM
we had the same childhood growing up. only difference was we rented a neighbors home in Ortley...cousins,brothers & sisters,Aunts & Uncles,Moms & Dads a and Grandmas & Grandpas were there and can be seen in countless photographs we all have. I believe it is being torn down soon....very sad days these are

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