My mom describes it as “a time warp, where the buildings stay the same, but the people get older.”
Those of you who’ve followed my blog for any length of time know I’m a transplanted Yankee living in South Carolina. And while I happily live in the land of grits and boiled peanuts, my roots are deeply embedded in the rocky soil of New England.
Almost a century ago my Portuguese ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life. My great-grandmother, known to me as Vovo’, and her three children sailed from the island of San Miguel in the Azores to Providence, Rhode Island. From there they traveled south to meet my great-grandfather, who had gone ahead years earlier to prepare a place for them. He’d found work in a textile mill in the tiny harbor town of Bristol, and there they settled.
Great-grandfather worked in the mill. Vovo’ worked in the mill. As soon as my great uncles were old enough, they worked in the mill. My grandmother, the only daughter, dropped out of school in the fourth grade after she’d learned to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic, to work in the mill. It was there she met my grandfather, a first-generation Italian from immigrant parents.
They had one daughter, my mother, who married a sailor boy from South Carolina stationed three towns over, in Newport. I was born in that sleepy little town on Narragansett Bay. And it was there that I recently returned.
Life comes full circle, they say, and this trip proved the old adage true. Fifty-five years ago my mom married her sailor boy in Newport. Last week we traveled to reunite with my daughter, also married to a sailor boy, now attending school in Newport. It was a nostalgic, symbolic trip.
My little town, Bristol, Rhode Island, was established in 1680, making it a pre-Revolutionary War town. Home to the Wampanoag indians (remember Squanto, who saved the pilgrims?), a few of its claims to fame include being the site of King Philip's tribal council seat, (you may remember him from the war that bears his name) and the oldest continuously celebrated Independence Day festivities in the United States. The Herreshoff Boat company, housed in Bristol, built five consecutive America's Cup winners.
Taylor Swift and Conan O'Brien have homes in Westerly. Olivia Culpo, Miss USA and Miss Universe, calls RI home. The View cohost Elisabeth Hasselbeck was born and raised in RI. And soon-to-be New York Times best selling author, Lori Roeleveld, makes her home in New Hope. (She's just birthed a beautiful new book. Isn't it lovely?)
But I loved Bristol before Bristol was cool.
In the next few blog posts, I plan to share a few stories from the trip. I hope you enjoy the peek into my past. To whet your appetite, here are a few pictures. More to come.
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28:15 ESV).