I live on an island, surrounded, as all islands are required to be, by water. I grew up here and lived here for twenty-six years before getting married and moving overseas for a few years with my husband. When we returned to the states, we made stops in Maryland and then Florida. Ten years after I left home, I came back to stay and noticed something that never struck me before. The water is literally everywhere. Travel down any main road, and you'll glimpse snippets of the river to the east and the bay to the west. I took that for granted the first time I lived here. After a decade spent elsewhere, I notice it every day.
Walking just now from the high school football game, I had panoramic water views of the river and the northern most point of the island. From my back porch, I have a pie-shaped piece of the river to look out on year round. I use that scrap of water to judge the wind, to see if there are white caps, to notice that every day the river takes on a different shade of blue. In the winter, after the leaves fall, we have a winter water view that stretches for miles. The only way I would ever move again is for a spectacular year round water view. I dream about a having a writing grotto that looks out over the water. However, I worry that I would wile the day away staring out at the ever-changing view. The water resides in my soul. Before we were married, I told my Hoosier-born husband that I could never, would never live in Indiana and even then he understood. After twenty years in the Navy and now six years here, I don't think he could be landlocked again either. Don't get me wrong, Indiana is a beautiful place, and I love to visit there. But the Wabash River is no substitute for my beloved ocean. When we lived in Maryland, I was under the impression that we lived close to the ocean—until the day we set out for Ocean City and discovered it was three hours away. I cried all the way home.
We experience the depths of every season—from biting, frigid cold in the winter to life-draining heat in the summer, from the soft promise of spring to the earthy decay of a spectacularly colorful autumn. You can be born, grow up, go to college, get decent a job in the defense or other industry, and never have to leave my island. In fact, many people really never leave. I've heard talk of a man in Newport who has never been over the "new" Jamestown Bridge, which opened in 1988. I believe it. Three bridges, one on the south end and two on the north, provide the only ways off the island by car. On the south side, you must cross two bridges to get to mainland Rhode Island. Those bridges, the Newport Bridge in particular which graces the banner of this site, are symbols of home to me. No matter how far I travel, they mark the way home. Yet our island is big enough that it is easy to forget you're on an island, unlike Block Island to our south, which has not a single traffic light nor a bridge to connect it to anything. You must fly there or take a ferry or private boat. We are known here on Aquidneck Island as the home of the City by the Sea and the Sailing Capital of the World. We're also home to world-famous mansions, a ten-mile Ocean Drive, and spectacular beaches.
My father grew up in Newport, the southern most of the three towns on my island. My mother was raised in the north in Portsmouth, so it was no wonder that I was brought up in Middletown. A compromise if ever there was one. Today I live in Portsmouth, the town we loved to hate as Middletowners. My 10-year-old son worries that when he plays high school sports I'll root for Middletown over his team. Maybe I will, but he'll never know! We live on Education Lane, at the corner of Conjunction Junction (okay, I made up that part). The high school sits at the top of our hill. Excited PA announcers and marching band music from football games dance through the air of our neighborhood on crisp fall Friday nights. I tell my children that kids brought up on Education Lane are expected to be world-class scholars.
My husband and I once teased my brother about never living outside the state of Rhode Island. Sitting on the back of our father's boat in picturesque Brenton Cove, my brother gestured to the breathtaking view of Newport Harbor, Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge. "And go where?" he asked. After going there and coming back, I couldn't have said it better myself.