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Day 23: Remember me? I was about 8 years old when we last met

June 22, 2010 6 comments

Location: Riverside, RI  

Miles Driven: 168  

Total Miles: 4,040  

4000 miles.  All right!  

  

Left Ya-Wen’s place around 8AM as she headed off to work.  Thanks again, Ya-Wen.  I didn’t think I’d have any home to stay in while I was in Connecticut, and turns out I had a home to stay in along with a good friend to visit.  Ya-Wen and I were in grad school together, and though we’ve seen each other here and there since graduation, it still had been a couple of years since we’ve met up.  

The previous night in NYC, I had come across a Forbes article linked from MSN.com that highlighted some scenic drives across the country.  I had recognized a couple – the Overseas Highway going along the Florida Keys, the Pacific Coast Highway, and others.  One of the drives mentioned that I didn’t recognize was the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut.  Luckily, that parkway was just north of me and ran parallel to I-95 for a stretch, so I figured I could drive the Merritt Parkway for at least a little while and then link up with I-95 towards Rhode Island.  I’m glad I came across that article – the drive along that road was very enjoyable.  

Driving along the Merritt Parkway

Around New Haven the Merritt Parkway turned North, so I got back onto I-95.  

  

The destination was Riverside, Rhode Island, where my cousin (Mom’s side) Lynn lives.  I hadn’t seen Lynn and my other cousins from Rhode Island since my grandma’s funeral back in the late 80s, so I was looking forward to meeting up with everybody and learning more about the family (the Sevigny’s) from here.  

Lynn was very welcoming from the start, as she grabbed some snacks and had me come sit out by the pool.  My gregarious cousin Eddie came by, as well, and I began to make the connections of how everybody was related.  The common reference was my Grandma, Aldora, who was Eddie and Lynn’s aunt.  Lynn kindly drew up a quick family tree for my reference:  

Note the Curtin children near the bottom left

 My grandma Aldora (we called her “Memere” when we were kids) was the one girl out of four children born to my great-grandparents (EJ and Olivine Sevigny), immigrants from Canada.  I couldn’t recall seeing a visual representation of how the family was broken out, so this helped a lot in figuring out how everybody was related.  

Enjoyed hearing a few stories about “Auntie Aldora” and her brothers (Paul, Albert “Minno’, and Omer) before Eddie had to head out, though we planned to meet up later in the day with more family members.  Lynn had to attend a jewelry show in nearby Bristol, as she did a lot of artwork for the restaurant that was hosting the show.  Here’s the cover of the invitation she designed:  

  

Pretty cool, eh?   

So although the jewelry show (I had no idea necklaces could cost upwards of $3,000) wasn’t something I’d normally seek out on my own, I’m glad we went as the restaurant was right along the water.  I spent some time walking up and down the main drag in Bristol, and near the water.  There’s a lot of history in this town – you’ll see homes built in the late 1700s, and I learned from a police officer that Bristol hosts the longest-running parade in the U.S. on the Fourth of July (first mention of it goes back to 1777).  In fact, the lane divider markers on the parade route are painted red/white/blue year-round, as opposed to the traditional solid yellow.  

  

  

  

  

As the sun was coming down, Lynn and I headed out and she drove me by some of the buildings my great grandfather and great uncles had built.  I had no idea how much the family had contributed to the development of places like Bristol and Warren, Rhode Island.  Houses they all had built decades ago still stand and are being used to this day.  

Nearby lived another cousin, Paul, who everybody says really has the gift the great uncles had for building.  Got to visit with him for a little bit, and it was good to finally put a face to the name.  

Lynn and Paul

 We returned to Lynn’s where cousin Eddie, his wife Sandra, his son EJ, along with our cousin Mike came to meet up with this wandering relative of their’s from NY.  This had to be one of the top experiences of the trip as I heard first-hand stories about my grandma and her family, and about the raw ability and drive of people who lacked little formal education (my great-grandfather EJ had a 6th grade education), and really made themselves into something.  EJ became a Rhode Island representative for over 20 years and was very politically connected, evidenced by him managing to get Paul, Omer, and Albert a brief return home (all away serving during WWII) to attend their sister Aldora’s wedding.  And although the brothers did not attend any kind of architectual school, they became experts at designing and building.  And I would be remiss not to mention the funny stories showing their idiosyncracies, their tempers, and their humor (like when Uncle Omer knocked Eddie down with the rounded edge of a backhoe).  Thanks to Mike, Eddie, and Lynn for sharing all of that with me – stories I had never heard, and may not have heard anytime soon without this gathering.  

Eddie, Lynn, Mike, and EJ

All the cousins together

What a great visit.  

joe

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