From San Francisco to Guilford: Embracing Warmth, Embracing Home

by Maia Ettinger

Maia & Donna

When Donna and I – both East Coasters – decided we’d had enough of San Francisco, we drew a 100-mile radius around New York City and started looking for a new home. Let’s face it: an interracial lesbian couple can’t go just anywhere. Sadly, there are still places we’d be unwelcome. We looked at Westport and Fairfield, but the houses were expensive, and the communities didn’t seem so warm. Then someone suggested Guilford. We were instantly taken with the beautiful green and the renovated public library. We wandered the stores and everyone was friendly. We found our wonderful local realtor, Leigh Whitman, who eventually found us a great house. We took a deep breath, and moved.

After 3 years, people are still incredulous. “You left the Bay Area for here?” But we’ve never looked back. Guilford resonates with our values at every level: strong education, historic preservation, beautiful landscape, and above all, civility. We’re not exactly invisible – people meet us once and they know who we are. And that’s the beauty: “Hi Donna, Hi Maia.” At Page’s Hardware, at Breakwater Books, at our yoga class in the community center, at the Hen & Heifer. We could have moved someplace “hip,” like Park Slope, where everyone votes like we do, and looks more like us. But we’re middle-aged broads, and what matters to us is not everybody looking and acting the same, but everybody treating their neighbors with respect.

We always expected to connect with old friends in Boston and New York when we moved. We didn’t expect to make such close friends in Guilford that at our wedding – held at the Guilford Yacht Club 3 short years after we arrived – we posed for a formal photograph with our rich community of Guilford friends.

Donna and I both come from families whose fates were intertwined with the most painful aspects of the 20th century: Jim Crow racism and the Holocaust. In truth, we believed ourselves excluded from the joys of living in a small town. Traditionally, small towns are wary of outsiders, suspicious of change. Yet Guilford welcomed us, and gave us the single most cherished thing that a family can hope for: a warm and embracing home.

Maia & Donna - Family Photo



  1. Michelle Lambert says:

    Best wedding outside my own that I have ever been too!

  2. Chris Wolak says:

    Maia–We’re thrilled to hear about your and Donna’s experience here in Guilford. My partner Laura and I just moved to town (from Chicago) earlier this month and have felt nothing but welcoming acceptance. We’ve both lived in other parts of the country and love coastal CT and New England. We look forward to meeting everyone during this celebratory year.

    • Maia Ettinger says:

      Hi Chris! Welcome to Guilford. Feel free to get in touch via Facebook – I’m the only Maia Ettinger on there. Happy Holidays.

  3. Meg Weisberg says:

    Welcome to Guilford! My husband and kids and I moved here about a year and a half ago from New Haven, and I had reservations about moving to somewhere that seemed pretty homogenous at first glance. But Guilford is a remarkably welcoming town, and the fact that this website chose so consciously to highlight your story says a lot about how intentional that welcoming feeling is. I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad you’re happy here too! Maybe we’ll see you at Hen and Heifer sometime…

  4. hi neighbors!
    i was taken by the beauty and joy in your faces in the article in the courier, and have just read your story.
    i imagine it is the tip of the iceberg…with lots more chapters…
    nonetheless, you expressed the important thing – guilford ‘found’ you! just yesterday i was smiled at by a stranger on the green and smiling back, felt simply great. and – i am, more than you know, glad you are on our awesome street – what lovely people we are so fortunate to live amidst. as jill would say “happyhappyjoyjoy”

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