Lenette, Jeff, And Our First Home

Lenette found and arranged the purchase of our first home. It was a two-bedroom, half-bathroom G.I. home, about 900 sq. ft., with a fireplace. We loved it.

We were continuously investing in Purple Sage, so we carried three mortgages on our $12,000 home. We paid our bills, but it was always a struggle as we still attended school full-time and worked part-time. That was no problem because we loved our home and what we were doing.

From day one, Lenette had a picture of what she wanted our tiny home to look like. It had a wonderful backyard. It was where Brutus, our smallish hound dog, Heidi, a hundred-ten pound, Lion’s Head German Shepherd, and Cleo, our cat, lived and played, pleasing us at every turn.

Lenette wanted the perfect backyard, so she added waterfalls, a huge shade tree that we loved, runs for the dogs and cats, a barbeque, and a beautiful sitting area. It was, indeed, perfect. 

Our staff loved being with us at home; some used our garage as their temporary living quarters. And, of course, we always fed whomever. All this on less than a quarter acre!

In the late 50s, we lost our baby.  I have blanked this period out of my mind as it was filled with such pain for both of us. Having the baby would have changed our lives and the many we touched. 

If we were able to have that baby boy and the two more we hoped for in our family planning, I would have finished my doctorate in psychology and also returned to the Los Angeles Board of Education. This was because we only counted on making a little money at Shasta, and the family we hoped to have needed a much more secure source of income. At the time, I had many opportunities in such a big system.

We continued to try to make a family and failed numerous times.  Our doctor told us he would help us adopt twins, and we gave serious thought to this. At the same time, I was working with a troubled boy who would be coming to camp in a few weeks. His father was leaving on a business trip, so he asked if his son could live with us until camp. We agreed, and Jeff moved in with us and stayed until he graduated high school.

He became our son, and our camp kids became our extended family. In essence, we did more than come to terms with our inability to make our own children. We created a huge and beautiful family who remain so to this day. Our loss and sadness became a story of long-term regard, respect, and love.

After living with us for about a year, Jeff told Lenette, “You are my real mother, aren’t you?”

Lenette was shocked and said, “I would have been 12 years old. No way!” 

Yet, in every way possible, Jeff made Lenette his mother. Lenette was far more than a “Mom” to Jeff. She made it possible for him to attend Junior and Senior High School. She oversaw his education and worked with him on all his classroom teachers required until he became his own self-motivated student.

When Jeff turned 16, his father wanted to buy Jeff a new car. Lenette told Jeff, “You accept the car, and you will have to leave our home.”

As I remember, Jeff turned the car down with no remorse. His home and family were with us. Mom had spoken, and for him, that was enough.

Lenette loved and cared for Jeff as the best mothers do their children—to have them grow up to be members and contributors to society.  It is who Jeff became and still is.

Seventy years later, Jeff recently said this of our home in Northridge. “I grew up on an estate in Beverly Hills, but the only real home I lived in was that small house in Northridge.”

We lived there from our first year of marriage until 1965. That year, we moved to Las Vegas to fulfill Lenette’s dream.

Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

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