As I am working on a story set in the area during the American Revolution, I took the opportunity to poke around for a few hours. Though I grew up in the town next door, I have not lived there since 1983 and have not visited since my mother’s death in 2004. After 35 years in the mountains, I wanted to refresh my memories of mudflats, salt marsh, and sea weed.
I also wanted to find a bridge at the head of a nearby harbor. During the Revolution, the wooden bridge at this spot was called the Great Bridge. It was a point of local pride and at the heart of the business district. In 1779 the townspeople pulled up all the bridge planks in an (unsuccessful) effort to keep attacking British soldiers from crossing. For my story I had to see the site. Getting a decent view of this now-insignificant, side bridge involved circling around city buildings, scrambling through a parking lot, and using my zoom lens. Today we might call it the Dinky Bridge.
Still, I looked down at the rocks at the base and thought to myself, You were here then.
My real treat, however, was a visit with my older sister, who drove over from New Jersey for lunch. Though we write regularly I hadn’t seen Newly since Lucy’s high school graduation, which was a blur. It seemed forever since we had really visited.
Of course, we met at the cemetery. I brought sandwiches, Newly brought brushes, soap, and jugs of water, and we scrubbed our parents’ gravestone. I know this would have pleased Mom and Dad. Scrubbing family gravestones is a tradition from our earliest childhoods.
Lucy joined us for the return trip north. Before we left, she wanted to see Grandma’s house. Lucy was six when our mother died and the house was sold, but she had happy memories of playing with her cousins there. I drove anxiously down the driveway, expecting to be lacerated by seeing the house where I grew up.
To my astonishment, I felt nothing. The 1950s colonial that had sheltered two parents and five children had been bought by a single woman who considerably enlarged it, changed the roofline, changed the porch, changed the windows. Every detail was very, very fancy and expensive — and completely unrecognizable to me. In a way it was a relief. This woman was not living in our home. Our home was gone. It lives safely in our memories.
While we were in the cemetery, Lucy took our picture. I tend to be stiff and a little worried in photographs.
It was so wonderful to see her, even for only two hours.
Lucy and I hit traffic all the way home and I pulled the barn doors closed at 9 PM.