Aug. 30 marked our 33rd year living in this area; however, it was never supposed to be thus. We landed in Westerly because...of my bladder.
Here’s the backstory. In the ‘80s we were both working for a national marketing company in management, and because we had spiked big numbers in New York, we were offered a larger territory in New England. The district included western Massachusetts, all of Connecticut, and all of Rhode Island. The powers-that-be told us we could live anywhere we wanted so long as it was within the boundaries of that territory. Time was of the essence, a decision had to be made, and the move had to take place all within two weeks, so we made a hasty road trip to see where our new “hometown” would be.
Wethersfield, Connecticut proved to be the geographic center of the assigned territory, but held no cache for us. We knew that initially we would rent, as we knew little about the area; it was the sensible thing to do. This was also the ‘80s when the condo craze was peaking, prices were through the roof, and we had a cat named D-Con, whom a number of landlords didn’t find as charming as we did even though she had won a national award from Purina. Between soaring rents and “no pets allowed,” our pickings were slim.
By the third day of driving, condo hunting, and having our Purina winner rejected, we were at deadline and desperation was closing in. Early Sunday morning we found ourselves on Rt. 1 in a town called Westerly. My Boston born and bred husband had only been to Providence “for coffee” years ago, and I had never been in the state at all. Neither of us knew a thing about Westerly, Rhode Island, so I cracked open the AAA map. Although the stereotype holds that women can’t read maps and men refuse to ask directions, it has always been different in our marriage. My husband couldn’t read a map if Heinrich Berann, the father of cartography, was at his side, and I love maps and always have, pouring over alternate routes, back roads, and the “roads not taken.” I prefer deciphering the tiny lines on a map to mapquest and google search, and I will NEVER ask directions at a gas station!
So here it was, a Sunday morning in August 1986, and we were on Rt. 1 when I suddenly piped up and said, “I’ve gotta go.” My husband looked around at the giant field on our right and the small real estate office on our left and said, “There’s no place to stop. Let’s go on a bit, maybe we’ll find something.”
I looked at him in disbelief wailing, “You don’t understand. I’ve gotta go NOW!”
He gestured at the giant field on the right, but that wasn’t going to work for me. I was getting desperate, until I noticed a car parked at the real estate office. “Somebody’s there,” I cried feeling the imminent hope of relief. “Stop! Go in and tell them you’re looking for a house at the beach to rent year ‘round. They never have one, but while you’re talking to them, I’ll use the rest room.”
It worked. Soon I joined my husband and the real estate agent with a calmer demeanor and a smile; however my plan was foiled when she said, “I have a brand new property on Shore Road. It’s a rental with option to buy, let’s go see it. It’s probably the only thing we have on the market.”
My husband whispered in my ear as we climbed into her car, “Don’t worry. It’ll only be for a year, then we’ll have a better idea of where we want to be.”
Turns out he lied. Although we only stayed on Shore Road for three years before moving to Hopkinton, there was something that kept us here into the next year and the next and the next. It might have been the beauty of South County, it might have been the pride I feel by being a member of the Westerly Rotary Club, it might have been the loyalty, helpfulness, and quirkiness of the people, but 33 years later, damn if we’re not still here.
I often wonder if I could have held it a little longer if we would have been as happy in Stonington or New London?
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 18 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.