Years ago we thought we had heard the final postscript on Carolyn Foote Edelmann’s July 12, 2000, article on the scenic Sourland Mountains. The postscript was from Elizabeth Vardon, who had moved to Meadow Lakes and was happy that her daughter and son-in-law could live in her Sourlands home. An excerpt:
“For 25 years my late husband and I lived one mile beyond the top end of Hollow Road, on 73 acres which we bought in about 1965, when it was fairly cheap. We built (not with our own hands, but with our hearts) a pale pink brick house with sage green trim. And when it was finished, my husband, who had a Fulbright in Italy to study Italian poetry, put up on the outside of the fireplace wall a marble panel, saying ‘Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle.’ (Ever dear to me was this solitary hillside.)
“Happily for me, my daughter is as fond of the place as I. I often visit them, and I think they are very happy. So am I.”
Vardon’s daughter never saw her mother’s letter until this year, when a friend found it online at www.princetoninfo.com. The daughter, Suzanne Vardon Hornickel, wrote to us:
“Thank you, thank you for the letter. I had thought that three years after my mother’s massive stroke, two years after her death, the time of such discoveries would be over. It is precious to see in her own written words her happiness with our being in the house and her visits to us. I felt she was happy about it, but she had never actually said it, and now I have it directly from her. As if from beyond the grave.
“There was quite a drama that preceded the arrangement; she was dead set against it. Following my father’s death in 1993, she planned to sell the house as quickly as possible. I was then in double mourning — both for my father and for the house and garden that were filled with his spirit. But I think she was needing to separate from a lifestyle that was now over, and couldn’t imagine accommodating any compromise.
“I had tentatively asked about the possibility of taking over the house with my husband, and she had refused. I think she was concerned also about the maintenance that goes with it, and didn’t want heavy burdens to fall on me. She stood firmly against my wish.
“Spring came round, and my husband and I were being tormented by basketball noise at our house in North Brunswick. We fled to the house in the woods for my week off from work, and when school resumed (I’m a school social worker on Staten Island), I just started commuting from the mountain.
I had no expectations and no plan; it was simply a quiet, beautiful place for my husband and me to be until my mother sold it. She saw me commuting successfully (it’s about an hour each way), and it was as if the sail on a boat suddenly swung to the other side. She began talking as if the house was ours. I was somewhat taken aback — what, no discussion? What if we don’t want it now?
“But of course we did, and my mother worked out all the arrangements with us at full speed. We have been here 12 years now and never looked back. Regardless of the power outages, snow-filled driveway, etc., it is an enchanted place to live.”