While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Kristin is someone I respect immensely for her talent and her kindness on the internet. You can check out more of her writing and adventures at Not Intent On Arriving.
I had an almost alarmingly idyllic childhood. Aside from the basics (wonderful parents, a great school, and a safe neighborhood with friends in walking-distance), my childhood was filled with beautiful things. My first memory is of bells being rung at my parents’ ski-cabin. My best friend lived next door, and we played house in a lilac bush in her backyard. When it was raining out, we would hunt around her 250-year-old house for secret passages. Years later, I lifeguarded at a local lake, and it feels like we ate barbecue, lit sparklers and tipped over our canoe on a nearly daily basis. There were scraped knees, tantrums over Shirley Temple drinks at restaurants, and no doubt many other hurt feelings, but my memories of childhood are nearly all filled with light and joy.
Out of these perfect memories, the weeks we spent in summer on the Rhode Island shore stand out to me more than any other. Each year, my mother’s best friend would rent a house in Charlestown, just a mile from the beach. Her parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews would all join us there, along with a rotating assortment of friends. The house had five bedrooms, no cable, and no air conditioning. It was on a flat road where my sister and I both learned to ride our bikes, and it had a porch in the back where we would grill dinner a few times during our stay. The showers regularly ran out of hot water, and we’d arrive back at the house from the beach to flash under the freezing water and wash the salt off our skin.
Our day-to-day usually varied within the weeks we were there, but it became a familiar and comforting routine over the years. We’d spend a few days riding our bikes to the beach, where you would find us swimming in the freezing ocean, lying in the hot sun, and eating potato chips and cold-cut sandwiches crunching with sand between the slices of white bread. If the waves were particularly high or the undertow particularly strong, we’d head to Narragansett Bay for a more protected swimming area. Other days, we’d take the ferry and wander around Block Island, or drive out to Newport to gawk at the mansions and their views of the water. We often went whale watching, which invariably made my father sea-sick, and it was on one of these trips that I first tried a Nutrageous bar, which felt strangely important, though now I can’t remember why. At least once every trip, we’d head to Mystic Seaport, and sometimes catch a movie there. On the rare rainy day, we’d sit inside the humid house reading, playing cards, or watching Law & Order re-runs.
Most evenings, depending on our moods, we’d go out for dinner to WB Cody’s in Westerly, the Lobster Pot in Bristol, the Sunflower in Cranston, or George’s in Galilee for what seemed like an endless supply of clam chowder, lobster, and barbecue. Almost every single night, without fail, we’d wait on what felt like an endless line for Around the Corner Ice Cream. Run by URI students and serving what tasted like pure heaven, the ice cream shop was our go-to place. We’d sit in the parking lot finishing our giant cones in the night’s fading heat before heading back home to lie in bed and feel the ocean-wave sway from a long day of swimming rock us to sleep.
I haven’t been back to Rhode Island in almost nine years, and we haven’t spent the night there in close to fifteen years, but everything about it feels as clear as day to me now. Of all my deeply happy childhood memories, the memories I have of our time on the shore are absolutely the happiest, and I hope that one day I’ll be able to share those memories and that place with children of my own.