In the Suburbs: Our love affair with Fairfield began on North Benson Road in April

Location, location, location. That is what Fairfield has meant to me for the past 39 years. And that love affair with this wonderful town began at this very time of year, mid-April 1982, when I was relocating to Connecticut and came to look at the rental home on Green Knolls Lane that was to become our first Fairfield home.

The moment I turned onto North Benson Road from the highway I was immediately in floral heaven. The entire street was awash in vivid colors. Azalea bushes in reds and pinks, Dogwood trees in whites and pinks, Forsythia bushes in sunshine yellow and other gorgeous flowers adorned lush green lawns.

I was so taken by the spring beauty that I almost missed my landmark right turn, Judd Street. According to the real estate agent, Jackie Nelson, who later became a friend before she moved away to the West Coast, Judd would take me to Green Knolls Lane, a little cul de sac. The secluded little street was one of Fairfield’s many residential gems.

I had just begun a job with Pitney Bowes in Stamford and was temporarily living in a very nice boarding house there. but I needed to move my family up here from our home in Reading, Penn. We were really feeling disconnected. My wife had just finished dental hygiene school in Philadelphia and our young daughters were staying at home with a nanny.

Once Jackie knew my circumstances and told me about the house, a charming and spacious three-bedroom colonial with a huge yard that looked endless, I couldn’t wait to see it. However, she also said it might be a real financial reach at $850 a month — very steep. But she also assured me that once we were in Fairfield, we’d never leave.

I had been looking at homes between Milford and Stamford for weeks, hoping to buy but getting a real sticker-shock education about Fairfield County. After seeing tiny, virtual shacks for as high as $90,000 and financing interest rates of 16 and 17 percent, I concluded that buying, using the small profit we had made on our semi-attached home in Reading, would be next to impossible. Renting seemed like the best solution and it would also give us a chance to decide where we really wanted to live.

After touring the house with Jackie, I knew it would be perfect. The biggest plus, besides the charm of the house itself, was that pets weren’t a problem. I knew this had to be home and there was an option to buy.

Of course, I still had to convince my wife and I hadn’t even scheduled a house-hunting trip with her and the kids. I talked with Jackie and she agreed to take a deposit of one month’s rent, which would hold the house, but she would continue to show it for at least the next month. That way, if another renter came along or we changed our mind, Jackie wouldn’t be forced to keep the house.

Meanwhile, along with the house, I had fallen in love with Fairfield, which was beautiful and had gorgeous views of Long Island Sound. Fairfield looked like it had leaped out of the pages of “House and Garden” magazine, and I just had a good feeling about our future in this town.

And spring in Fairfield is beyond breathtaking. I couldn’t wait to bring my wife up from Pennsylvania to get even a last look at these breathtaking flowers and trees. And Jackie told me that in a place called Greenfield Hill there was a dogwood festival on Mother’s Day weekend that wasn’t to be missed.

By the time my wife arrived in Fairfield County for our weekend house-hunting excursion, the entire area was in bloom. I had met with a Milford-area real estate agent and identified three homes to buy or rent, but secretly hoped that the Fairfield house on Green Knolls Lane would be her favorite. I saved it for last and Jackie would meet us there.

We saw three homes in Milford and to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about a long commute from Milford. Two of the homes were purchases in the $70,000 range and the third was a rental, which we looked at first. Despite the charm of the small rental house — which my wife liked but didn’t love — we couldn’t quite see us in it. The agent showed us the other two homes in different parts of Milford, but something seemed to be missing for us in each home. My Fairfield hopes were growing.

We finished up our Milford tour, had lunch and drove around Stratford, the next town over. My wife was disappointed that we couldn’t really buy anything, but I gave her a strong sales pitch on the Fairfield house and said it was 20 minutes closer to work. We agreed that with her anticipated salary from dental hygiene work, we’d be able to swing the rental cost, and we headed to Fairfield.

I was thrilled when we turned on North Benson Road from I-95 and my wife had the same first impression I did. So did the girls.

And once we pulled into the driveway at 97 Green Knolls Lane and saw the house, awash with the vivid colors of the shrubbery, we knew we were home ... for the near term at least. As we closed the deal with Jackie, my wife was already asking about shopping and schools and other perks of the area. That was the beginning of our love affair with Fairfield and 39 years and 3 houses later, we’ve never been sorry.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.