December 12, 2012
I am enjoying my time here in Rhode Island. It seems fitting that I spend my first week as a working author in the place where I grew up. I start each morning with an hour long walk. Along with losing that steady income I am hoping to shed some extra pounds now that I am no longer chained to a desk forty hours a week.
As I walk through my old neighborhood, I am surrounded by the waters of the Narragansett Bay. This is not the tony south end of the bay with the famous Newport mansions and yacht races. Or the picturesque harbor towns of Wickford and Bristol. This is the northernmost arm that feeds into the city of Providence, passing along the suburbs of Warwick and Cranston. The working class end of the bay.
When I was very young and growing up here in the 1960’s, the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier was built to protect the downtown area from hurricanes and storm surges. It was a result of two huge storms which submerged the city under twelve feet of water-1938’s Great New England Hurricane and Hurricane Carol in 1954. I remember my grandfather telling the story about the 1938 storm. He worked at the downtown post office back then and returned home via rowboat the day after the storm.
Rhode Islanders are very proud of that project. The hurricane barrier was the first of its kind and cost $14 million back in those days. I wonder what that would convert to in today’s economy and could we even get something like that approved with all the spending cuts and debt reduction we hear about on a daily basis?
I love this old neighborhood with its wide variety of small houses (by today’s standards). There are capes, ranches, colonials, bungalows, and English Tudors. No two are alike. No cookie cutter neighborhoods here. Most are decorated for Christmas with candles in the windows, lights draped across the hedges and wrapped around the trees, mangers and Santa Claus on the front lawn.
Christmas is so often mentioned with the word stress. Was it always like this? You mention getting together with a friend any time after Thanksgiving and they say “I can’t possibly do that during Christmas. I’m too busy and stressed out.” Busy doing what? Decorating? Shopping? There are four or five weeks between the two holidays. How much decorating and shopping can one do? There’s Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday. How many more shopping days does one need?
When my girls grew older and stopped believing in Santa Claus, and I started working more and commuting a longer distance, I turned into a Scrooge. Christmas became a hassle, getting all those decorations out of the attic and wondering where to temporarily store all those things already on the fireplace mantle.
Then there was the shopping. Although I worked more hours more weeks of the year, I still had to pull out the credit card. Each year I would promise to save money for Christmas but the car needed new tires or the dishwasher broke and I’d find myself using the VISA despite my best intentions. I only had ten vacation days a year so I would work right up to Christmas Eve and get all stressed out about grocery shopping and baking.
This year I am looking forward to spending our last Christmas in our old house. My younger daughter will be home from college and we plan to bake cookies and pies and make seafood chowder.
While cleaning out the attic in anticipation of our January closing date, I found a bag full of red ribbon and silver ornaments that I had bought several years ago at a yard sale. I had plans to make my own wreaths but never found the time in my hectic, busy schedule. This year we will prune some of the overgrown pine trees in our yard and make those wreaths. I am in search of a calmer, saner Christmas season.
This morning I am reminded that I have lots of questions and few answers. In the guest room I am staying in at my sister’s house there is an African Wisdom for Life calendar on the dresser. Today’s advice is a Ghanaian proverb: “One who said ‘I know everything’ built a house without a door.” I like that.