The phone rang this afternoon and when I answered, my mother’s voice piped down the line, bright and cheerful.
“Hi honey! Guess where I am?”
“Uhhhh …” was about all I could come up with. My parents have been traveling north every weekend for the past few months to help fix up my grandmother’s not-so-new house in Meriden, Connecticut. My folks lives just outside of Philadelphia, so they could be anywhere between Philly and Connecticut on a Saturday afternoon.
“I’ll give you a hint!” Mom continued in similarly chipper tones. “We used to go there for lunch and dinner and sometimes for treats when you were little!”
My brain was still stuck on figuring out what state she was in when she blurted out the answer.
“I’m at the Newport Creamery with your grandmother and your aunt and cousin!”
“Wow,” was my less than intelligent answer as a flood of memories broke loose in my head: ice cream sundaes piled higher than my head, the sweet, vaguely metallic taste of a milkshake sipped from the tall silvery sides of a milkshake-maker cup, crinkle-cut french fries and squeezing in tight to a booth with all of the Falvey kids. I haven’t been to a Newport Creamery in years, since before we moved to California in fact. I shook off the nostalgia long enough to ask how Mom was doing and how they’d wound up at the Newport Creamery.
As the story goes, my grandmother wanted a braided rug to go in her dining room to match the new decor and my aunt knew of a braided rug factory in Pawtucket, RI so all of the ladies working on the house today piled into the car and went on a road trip leaving the menfolk behind to continue painting and doing carpentry.
My cousin lives in Providence now, so when my grandmother took about 5 minutes to pick out her new rug, the ladies decided to go pick up my cousin and go out to lunch. This is how my mother came to realize that my cousin lives on the very same street that we lived on when I was a little girl. She’s all the way down on the far end of the street, but of course Mom had to drive up the hill and check out our old house.
She said that the neighborhood has barely changed at all. All of the little markets and the Italian ice stand are still there. Some of the houses have been repainted in different colors but otherwise it’s much as it was when we lived there in the mid-seventies.
On top of this piece of serendiptiy, my cousin’s roommate is from the same town as one of my mom’s dorm-mates from nursing school and the neighborhood that the rug factory is in, is the same neighborhood that my great-grandmother was born in.
I sat down at my computer while Mom and I continued to chat and brought up Google Maps in hybrid mode, zooming in on the street I used to live on, right down to the backyard of our old house.
“It feels like you’re right here with me,” she said when I told her what I was doing.
“I wish I was,” I replied with a twinge in my heart for all the miles that lay between us.
“There’s all these threads connecting things, we’re all connected,” she said just before she hung up.
I watched the computer monitor for a bit longer, thinking back to long summer days spent making mud pies in the shared driveway between our house and the Falvey’s next door, jumping into piles of maple leaves in the backyard in the fall, sledding down the whole street in winter and jumping through puddles on the sidewalk in spring.
Even from so far away, I felt the same way that my mother did: like I was right there with them sipping a vanilla shake at the Newport Creamery.