October 1, 2013
We’ve talked a lot here (and it’s been a recent topic on other blogs I visit) about our geographic identities, where we grew up as opposed to where we live now, and where home truly is to us.
I grew up in Massachusetts, but only lived there 15 years (from 1 to 16) before moving to the Albany, NY, area, then Ohio for college, then Connecticut, then Michigan, then Ohio again, then Pennsylvania, where I’ve been for 23 years. But I really don’t like living in Pennsylvania. I crave going home to New England.
Luckily, I still have family up there, as well as a daughter in college in Boston, and I can always find reasons to visit. A couple of weeks ago it was Fiction Fest in Mystic, Connecticut.
There are many routes home, but I almost always take one that takes me over The Tappan Zee Bridge and the Hudson River. It just represents the gateway, I guess. Shortly after that I’m in Connecticut. Not the “good” part of it, but closer to my destination than to my origination.
I love lots of areas of New England, but the place that makes me want to cry is Misquamicut, Rhode Island. We used to take numerous day trips to the beach, and when we were older and could afford actual vacations, most were for a week there. We always got there early and spent the entire day on the beach until the sun was low in the sky. Then we’d shower in the beach house, get dressed, and go to Paddy’s Wigwam for dinner. Then we drove down the coast a little bit to Watch Hill, where we strolled around the shops and marina and got ice cream before hitting the road home, my brother and I asleep in the back seat.
My mother had stationery that said “Terie, Happiest by the Sea.” She loved everything about it except the moisture, because the mildew allergy she developed made it impossible to get to the one place she could completely destress and be happy. She’s been gone 10 years now, and here is where I feel closest to her. That’s probably the main reason for the tears. 🙂
One of the things we talk about in relation to going home is how much things change. How small they seem, or how the landscape, buildings, and businesses are different. For the most part, this area of my past hasn’t changed. The beach looks exactly the same. The highway to get there does, too. Even the sand and water are the same.
I only got to spend about 10 minutes on my beach this trip, but I’m determined to take a weekend for myself up there one of these days. What better place for a writing retreat, right?
Okay, one last story, and then I’ll stop boring you. 🙂
That last picture is Paddy’s Wigwam (now Paddy’s Beach Club), the restaurant where we always ate. The last time I was there was when I met my brother, cousins, and aunts to scatter my mom’s ashes. Fantastic food, still! Anyway, the last time before THAT was after I sold my first book, Hunter’s Song, which is set in Misquamicut. I had a booksigning in Watch Hill, and then I went with my mom and both kids (then about 4 and 1.5 years old) to Paddy’s for dinner. During the typical craziness of eating with two small kids in a place that gives them straw sombreros, neon green stir sticks, and other cool toys, Dakota lost her beloved bear, Teddy. He was her first stuffed animal, given to her by my Auntie Lin before she was even born. We didn’t discover it until we were back at my mom’s, a few hours away.
I can’t remember the exact early sequence of events. I think when my mom called the person she talked to knew nothing about the bear, so I drove home as planned the next day. She followed up, and one of the waitresses had the bear and wanted to ship it to us. But it never came. My mother got a call from Grant, the owner, later. He was very upset. The waitress had left for college and he had no clue where Teddy was. He said if he’d known, he’d never have handled it that way. He absolutely insisted on getting Dakota a new bear. I found as close an approximation on the Internet as I could, and he ordered it and had it shipped. She named him Goldie, and Grant made a worshipping fan for life.
But the story doesn’t end there!
A year later, a young woman who used to be roommates with the waitress found Teddy deep in her toddler son’s toy box. She remembered the story, and contacted Grant, who contacted me and sent Teddy to us. He now has a happy home on Dakota’s bed at Emerson.
Where is the place that makes you want to cry?