June 11, 2013

Richmond: the early years

I've been doing some reminiscing lately. Thinking back on my childhood. The long, lazy days of summer when the sun seemed to shine for twenty hours each day. The chilly months filled with the smell of burning wood and simmering soup. Long before I had any sort of real responsibility... or that pesky crippling bug phobia.

Between the ages of two and six I lived in Richmond, RI. On a winding, wooded road called Gardiner. My parents had built a ranch home on a nice sized lot complete with a blueberry patch and plenty of poison ivy. My first crush was on a man named Pete who built the stone retaining wall out back. That very wall would become my kitchen counter where I made mom many a tasty lunch out of plastic raspberries. My father kept the yard nice and even painted the large rock that adorned our front lawn. We made lots of snowmen in that front yard and headed out Trick-or-Treating down the gravel driveway.

Not far up the road was Shady Acres nursing home. I remember at Christmastime we would spend a few hours there cheering up the residents by singing Christmas carols alongside our neighbors. I know, it sounds incredibly corny now but it was so sweet. Something right out of the movie Funny Farm. We had wonderful neighbors. Sure, there were a couple of oddballs who ran a jewelry ring and made moonshine in the basement, and that lady who would spray her diaper-clad toddler with the garden hose - but mostly really kind and generous people that you could depend on. Many families with young children. My brother had lots of friends on our street and, while I was younger than most, I always managed to fit in with the crew.

There was a large campground up the road from our house and in front was a small candy store. My brother and I walked there often - sometimes with mom or with our beloved Paul. No matter the wide variety I always chose my favorite - the five flavor Chuckles. To this very day I can't taste a Chuckle without being transported back to those wonderfully innocent times. Awesome when that happens, huh?

My brother and I were always playing games. I remember Mister Mouth was very popular, I loved that game. We also enjoyed Lite Brite, Simon, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land and Hungry, Hungry Hippos. I remain a huge fan of the game Memory and even now I can picture the little strawberry card. We rode our Big Wheels alllllllll the time. We called them "Hot Cycles". We would ride them around and around in our musty basement - I can still smell that must. On nice days we stayed outside all day long. There was a construction site close by and we used to play in the huge dirt mounds, climbing and jumping. I could really hang with the roughnecks back then. Nowadays God forbid I get dirt under a fingernail. What happened to that messy little girl???

During the colder months I would help dad bring in wood for the wood stove. Wheelbarrow-ing heaps from the woods behind our house through the bulkhead into the cellar. Dad was clad in flannel and I in my plaid pants and gigantic coat. Mom would have my favorite noodle soup ready on the stove and together we would catch a bit of The Price is Right while lunching. I remember sitting in front of that television with my multicolored wooden blocks and a metal lunchbox. I was only three or four and wanted to pack a lunch like my school-aged brother. The red square was my sandwich, the yellow triangle was cheese and the purple cylinder was my grape soda of course. Mom stayed at home with me while my brother was in school and my dad, a Navy Veteran, split time between his full time job at the V.A. Hospital, Johnson & Wales University and the National Guard. I loved those days with mom. We often took trips to the local library for story time or visited the Bookmobile - a mobile library filled with all the books a kid could dream of.


I look back on my years living in Richmond as though they were a weird dream. Sadly, I haven't seen or felt that sense of community kindness since. Our time there was short-lived as my parents decided to move to a more convenient area. While I was very sad to leave I don't know that I would have the same fondness for those years if we had stayed any longer. I quickly made friends in our new neighborhood, one that remains my very best. And although our new neighbors were perfectly nice - it just wasn't the same living in the city. The things that I thought were so very normal and fun now seemed lame and I learned a new way of living and being... one that was never true to my soul.

I think about Richmond often. I even have a playlist on my iPod with songs from my early childhood years. They bring back vivid memories for me and it is always a place I love to visit in my mind

*** I would love to hear about YOUR favorite childhood memories, the days you wish you could revisit and your most sacred toys and games. Feel free to share it all in a comment ...

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