If a pair of rom-com script writers were given the task of bringing the romance of Gina Patti and Rob Oslyn of Oak Bluffs to the screen, they would have found the storyline too rich for a single movie.
“Can we do it as an HBO series?” they might have asked.
But, no, it’s a movie as we FADE IN on:
A house, a tiny rustic ranch that, when it was bought by Rob’s mom in the early 1970s, looked like a homestead on a prairie.
Rob recalls today his mother paid $17,000 for the little house on Lower Douglas Lane in Oak Bluffs.
FLASHBACK as . . . we see Rob being raised in a small town, Woodmere, on Long Island. His mother was a schoolteacher, his dad a prison warden. Rob describes himself in those days as a “troubled teen” until he hopped aboard a summer excursion with American Youth Hostel to Woods Hole, then on to Martha’s Vineyard, and finally Nantucket.
On this tour, kids and counselors rode their bikes everywhere. This constant cycling in beautiful scenery straightened Rob right out, turning him into an upstanding young man, a miracle duly noted by his folks.
And that’s what inspired Rob’s mom to buy the cottage.
The family spent summers in the little house on Lower Douglas. Back in Woodmere for the rest of the year, Rob, for his foray into adulthood, entered the construction trade. This went well until, in March of ’88, he rode along on an open truck bed on Long Island and suddenly two multi-ton telephone pilings fell on his neck.
That hurt. A lot. “I was laid up for many years,” he says today. To convalesce, Rob traveled to his mother’s Island cottage. But here comes another big plot wrinkle: That very summer his mom died of a heart attack.
The son, with the combined tragedies of a neck fracture and a deceased mother, decided the true way to heal was to stay forevermore on Martha’s Vineyard.
FAST FORWARD to . . . 1991 and the summer of Hurricane Bob, one of those storms that will live in the memory of all of us who happened to be present for the shrieking winds and forests of fallen trees. . .
Only days after the big blow, a pal of Rob’s with whom he used to ride his Honda 750 — clearly a bit of the bad boy remained in his makeup — fixed him up on a blind date with a girlfriend of his girlfriend.
The match with the lovely Elizabeth Hanson, special ed teacher, house painter, quilter and everything else crafty, was so stunning a success, the two married in November of ’92. Soon the house on Lower Douglas filled with three tots — Justin, Sam, and Grace.
SLOW DISSOLVE to . . . 10 years later, Liz received a diagnosis for pancreatic cancer. Treatments in Mashpee ensued but the disease was too far gone, and she passed away in August of ’02.
REWIND to . . . Long Island once again and one town over from Rob’s Woodmere, Valley Stream — a romantic synchronicity, for sure — where Gina was born and raised. After high school she attended Binghamton College, seeking a master’s degree in education. She lived in Manhattan and taught in alternative and literacy schools in the Bronx.
Gina’s first visit to the Island took place in 2000 where, fatefully, she met David Sieman, chef and owner of Juice Caboose on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. They married shortly after 9/11 at the Sailing Camp.
Now David’s uncle had fortuitously purchased a house on Penacook Avenue in Oak Bluffs, just a two-block hop from the beach. Gina, after a five-year stint of teaching in NYC, interviewed and was hired for a teaching post with principal Laury Binney of the Oak Bluffs School.
FAST FORWARD to today, Gina is still employed at the OB School as a reading specialist. “I love my job!” she announces.
REWIND once more to . . . Gina in her 4th grade classroom as she presided over Rob’s son Justin after his mother’s death, tragically, on the child’s birthday. Rob reached out to Gina to make certain Justin was faring okay, or at least as well as could be expected.
And then the fates grabbed hold of Gina’s life when her own beloved, her David, passed away in ’03 of an inherited condition of high blood pressure. Gina was six months pregnant with her coming baby Kaya Sieman.
And there’s another synchronicity, a particularly sad one: Gina’s and Rob’s spouses died within a year of each other.
Having met for parent-teacher conferences, Rob invited Gina to his house on Lower Douglas for a beer. Her first thought as she entered through the front door and she took in the original low ceilings: “Boy, do these need to be blown out!!”
The two fell in love and married on Friday the 13th in August of ’04. The wedding was low-key, just their four blended kids, the bride’s parents, their siblings, and two specially chosen friends: 20 guests in all, sheltered under a tent in the backyard.
SLOW DISSOLVE to . . . a new chapter for two families in an old house.
Now, about the house . . . At Gina’s behest, those low living room ceilings were raised to create a beautiful steeple over what has morphed into a great room of skylights, a luxe, light and bright kitchen, polyurethaned pine and oak and Mediterranean tiles.
There’s a display of spacious counters and furniture, some of it originally picked up from the side of the road such as a refurbished rocker found on Pinewood and an old chesterfield rescued from County Road, originally blackened with age, long since painted and sanded for the perfect shabby chic style, which so many of us decorating maniacs have adored for decades.
Two major renovations and some smaller ones have transformed the little house on the prairie, yielding a second story of three bedrooms and a study-slash-TV room.
A hand-stenciled sign in the TV room reads “— and they lived happily ever after” which seems a tender commentary on the family’s ups and downs.
And the kids are all right!
Their respective ages and careers today show up on the timeline as: Justin, 27, manages a branch of Vineyard Vines in San Diego, and lives with his fiancé Hannah Marlin: Sam, 25, a hair stylist in NYC, has spent the COVID-19 period in situ with his parents, who have great hairdos to show for it; Grace, 23, just graduated from University of Bridgeport, living in New Haven and taking EMT courses and, last but hardly least, Kaya, 17, rising senior at MVRHS, a soccer player and a Minnesinger, with a yen for social-change advocacy.
Another famous saying applies to the Patti/Oslyn household: Voltaire’s final line from Candide, “We must cultivate our garden.” A tour of Gina and Rob’s property reveals resplendent lawns, a lovely pond, an outdoor shower fashioned from wavy grey wood panels, and cement shaped to resemble a magical stone walkway. In addition, the pair have taken advantage of COVID-19 at-home time to develop an immense vegetable garden.
And what’s a happy family without a pair of dogs? Frolicking nonstop at the couple’s side are Millie, a white-and-grey, mixed-breed puppy of 8 months, who wears a protective mask from a spaying op, and a doting tan-colored, short-haired chap named Roo — yes, as in Baby Roo from Winnie the Pooh.
As our rom-com script writers would be sure to acknowledge, living happily ever after is an exercise best undertaken day by day, but Gina and Rob sparkle in their own days, as they model a way for all of us to stay healthy, happy, and safe, at home with each other and . . .
FADE OUT . . .
IT’S A WRAP.