I lived in Rhode Island for 32 years — longer than anywhere else.
Funny. I’ve always considered myself an Iowan, but I now realize that I knew Rhode Island much better. I grew up in Iowa, but I grew much more in this smallest of all the 50 states. And now, in my sixth decade, I’ve moved across the state line to Groton, Connecticut, exit 86 on Route 95.
I will miss the ease of living in Rhode Island, where you could find everything you needed within a 10-minute ride. (Even as I write that, I remember how much of my life was lost in traffic delays on Routes 95, 146 and 295. I won’t miss that. But I’m sure Connecticut has its own surprises in store for me.)
I lived in three different RI cities — Barrington, East Providence and West Warwick. We lived in an apartment in Barrington for just one year after selling our wonderful little home in South Jersey in 1985. It was on the second floor of a Cape Cod on Walter Street. I don’t remember Barrington being a very welcoming community, but maybe it would have been different if we’d been homeowners. The snob factor was real though, and the only place I felt at home in was the town’s elegant, old library, which one-year-old Mallory and I visited often.
My first job in RI was as a stringer for the Pawtucket Evening Times, and I typed my stories on an electric typewriter in our tiny living room. I couldn’t use the newspaper’s computers because it was a union paper, and only full-time union employees could use the newsroom computers — which felt so weird after spending so much time in newsrooms since college.
We lived in a three-bedroom house on Manning Drive in East Providence for almost 30 years. Hard to believe, 30 years. I remember looking at many houses in Barrington and Warwick when we were ready to buy a home. It was a sellers’ market in 1986, so if you didn’t make an offer right away, you lost the house — and so we did, at least once if not more.
There was nothing memorable about the house we bought — no character, just a tract house in a suburb. But we made an offer and it was ours. No one else wanted it, I guess. We never moved to a larger home over the years, even though we looked several times. We made a few changes to the house, but nothing significant. I always wanted to do more, but it always meant conflict. Maybe it was this inertia, this lack of desire on our part, that made it even easier for me to leave it behind some 30 years later.
When I mentioned the three places I lived earlier, I forgot one. I also lived in Providence for one month after I left in July 2016. I needed a quick place to land and found a sublet on Benefit Street for August while the two RISD students who rented it went home for the summer. The apartment was over a sandwich shop and Korean restaurant — and smelled like it. I was away at work for most of the day, and walked around the city in the evening as late as I could. But I baked at night even as I enjoyed the views of city lights and church spires from the open ceiling-to-floor windows.
From there, I went to 65 Trellis Drive in West Warwick to a condo complex called Hidden Valley. (Really.) It sat right off Route 2, the busiest road in the state, filled with every imaginable big box store. However, my condo was way in the back with only a stone wall and a stand of trees beyond my second-floor back deck. It was quiet and filled with peace. It became my respite, my space, my home — a place that I looked forward to returning to, a place that I could decorate and change and fill with my choices without complaint or negativity. (The only thing I couldn’t do was paint the boring walls.)
And so I have spent the last month moving out of 65 Trellis Drive and moving into my new home on Leafwood Lane. This condo is smaller, but closer to my daughters and their families. There is no back deck, but there is a swimming pool. I have to admit I will miss Trader Joe’s. But I won’t be huffing and puffing up to the second floor with packages. And that’s good.
I will miss you, Rhode Island, but your beaches are still close by, and Providence is just 45 minutes up the road. I’m ready to explore this new home and to find something interesting to do with my time. I will walk along the waterfront and find the library. I have already tried the sushi place, and the Indian restaurant is next.
But first, I will travel to Thailand and Cambodia. And then I’ll come back and get to know you better.