WALKING IN WARWICK

Bird song fills the small guest room at my sister’s house in Warwick, R.I.. It is early. Six a.m. I am sleeping in a very comfortable twin bed with not one but two pillows. A cool summer breeze drifts in from the open window helped along by a ceiling fan that rotates the  air through the small room, as small as the dorm room I spent the past twelve days in but much more comfortable. Three blocks from the house I grew up in, I remember the magic of the word Summer.

Swans and sailboat

Narragansett Bay Warwick, RI

The place hasn’t changed much since I lived here. A middle class neighborhood set on a plateau above the Narragansett Bay just outside of downtown Providence. We always prefaced the city with Downtown. “We’re going back-to-school shopping in Downtown Providence.”

Narragansett Bay

Pawtuxet Cove Warwick, RI

Half awake, I remember summer days when my plans included walking down to the bay to sit on the breakwater and play underneath one of the wooden bridges in our private club house until the rising tide drove us out.

Breakwater

Swans on Narragansett Bay

Just like the child who resides inside me, this place is always with me. It shows up in the novels I write. In Take Me Home, Josie Wolcott brings Andy Radcliffe to this very place.

“Can we walk out on that breakwater?” he asked.They carefully navigated the crumbling rock and concrete seawall, the brisk breeze off the bay stinging their cheeks. “There’s an old carousel over there in Riverside,” she said, pointing across the bay towards Barrington. “It’s a pretty round building, I think it’s called a hippodrome. It was part of an amusement park at one time, with a shore dinner hall and a ballroom, but the merry-go-round is all that’s left. The horses are beautiful and there are four dragon chariots, but only Grandmas sit in those. I remember when the ticket man opened the gate, I’d run to get the prettiest horse, one that went up and down on the outside so I could reach for the brass ring.” “Of course you did,” he said, his warm lips on her cold cheek.

Summer days were filled with daydreams and boredom. As an adult I still daydream but I’m not bored. Not this summer. Like the do-nothing Congress, I am on hiatus. Working as a temp has very few benefits-no health insurance or paid holidays and vacations. The only benefit is time. I am having a childhood summer. I walk every morning down to the Bay or through the neighborhoods where I spent summers playing with friends and riding my bike.

Gaspee street

My old neighborhood – Gaspee Plateau

On a residential street, I discover I can still  buy the Providence Journal but I don’t need to because my sister has it delivered to her doorstep each morning.

Providence Journal

The Providence Journal

Lots of people still have milk boxes on the front stoop and my brother-in-law informed me the Munroe milkman still delivers milk in recyclable glass bottles.

Munroe Dairy

Munroe Dairy

Yesterday I took a three mile walk, making a perfect square. I headed down Harrison Avenue, the road I walked to both junior and senior high school then took a right onto Warwick Avenue, which has seen better days. Passing Little John’s Pizza and the New Canton I remembered how my mother never liked to cook and how fish on Fridays during Lent really threw her for a loop. So we ordered takeout. One week fish and chips, the next cheese pizza, then vegetable lo-mein. The New Canton is looking a little down at the heels these days, but it is now serving breakfast. Waffles and pancakes at a Chinese restaurant throws me for a loop.

New Canton

New Canton Restaurant Warwick RI

Taking another right onto Post Road, I passed a nursing home, an industrial park, and a few condominium complexes then re-entered the historic Pawtuxet Village/Gaspee Plateau area. The neighborhood I grew up in.

historic village

Historic Pawtuxet Village

 I opened the gate to an historic cemetery and checked out the headstones, mostly from the early 1800’s.

headstone

Historic Cemetery in Pawtuxet Village

Back on the Narragansett Parkway, I took another right, completing my three mile square. I  walked along the Bay then climbed the slight hill to the plateau that gives this neighborhood its name. I passed the house where the famous actor James Woods grew up. His mother ran a pre-school in the backyard and I was a friend of his brother Michael. My memory returns to a co-ed swim party one summer when I was in junior high school. He had an in-ground pool and I recall being very excited about the event.

James Woods

James Woods’ childhood home

After attending the Southampton Writers Conference I have made several changes to my third novel, but I am well on my way to finishing it. In one scene, the main character, Samuel Ryder, returns to the town he grew up in and writes this in his journal:

You leave a place and then you return. It’s changed, and so have you, but the essence is still there. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you find yourself again. The dreams you lost, the man you wanted to be, and in that way Thomas Wolfe was wrong, you can go home again.

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6 thoughts on “WALKING IN WARWICK

  1. Yes, I could follow much of your journey since you described it beautifully and I know the area, too. “Can you go home again?” Not the “you” you were way back when, but you can go back as your “other self”–the one minted on time. It’s delicious to go back and extract the lovely while leaving the other. A nice piece, Sheila, and I’m happy you’re enjoying your summer break…Hope to see you Thursday at Elephant Room, at 6:30…

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  2. It looks like you had a lovely middle class upbringing especially with the bonus of being on the bay. it really comes through in this piece. That is the time I think of when people mention framily values. I grew up in Framingham, MA and we had whole streets owned by one family all taking care of each other.Dad worked, mom was home and we all listened for the bell to ring so we would come in for dinner. Good times!

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