21 September 2017

Where I'm From, aka The Birthplace of Coffee Syrup

Isn't this a lovely picture of the Dallas Skyline?  I love it every time I catch a glimpse of it.  With as much as I love it, you would think I grew up here in the DFW area.  But I didn't.  The idea of living in Texas never even crossed my mind until 2010.  Texas is my adopted home but I grew up in the Biggest Little State in the Union - Rhode Island.

More specifically, I grew up in North Providence, a town just to the north of the state capital of Providence.

If you've never been to Rhode Island (and you should), you don't really appreciate how small it is.  The whole state is roughly the size of the DFW metroplex and there are about 1 million people in the whole state!

My hometown has about 32,000 people.  It's not tiny, but it's not very big either.  Phillip grew up here in Texas, in Garland, and there are almost a quarter of a million people there.  Just in Garland!  That's a 25% of my whole state!  

The great thing about Rhode Island is that everything is close.  And growing up, the people I spent the most time with were my cousins.  There are many of us!  At first there were just four (from L-R above: me, Ally, Jim, Carolyn) now we are 22 and my cousins have had kids and I think we're up to 20 with one on the way there.  

In other words, my family was all around.  We saw each other all the time and I loved having that experience.

North Providence isn't a sleepy little town, but it's definitely on the quieter side.  We have a beautiful town hall.  Our first mayor was mayor for decades and we've only had four others since he passed away in the 90s.  Everything in NP is named after him - the library, the senior center, I'm surprised they haven't named the main road after him.

I grew up Catholic and it took me a long time to find a church in Texas that I love as much as my hometown church.  My family has gone to Presentation since it was built. So many weddings, christenings, communions, and when I go to church now, I look for that same feeling of family and familiarity.  Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Grapevine is the one that I have found that comes closest.  It's not the same, but it's close.  Church was a big part of growing up - I was in the choir and participated in youth group.  We went to mass most Sundays followed by a trip to grandma and grandpa's to hang out with the family and enjoy Sunday dinner.

Like my dad, aunts, and uncles before me and many cousins after me, I went to Marieville Elementary School for K-6.  As one of the older cousins, I was not that far removed from some of my younger aunts and uncles and with an uncommon last name, I was recognized by teachers almost immediately.  The only teacher I had at Marieville that did not teach any of my family prior to me attending was Miss DiSanto, my kindergarten teacher, and I'm pretty sure we were her first kindergarten class.  To Mrs. Miller, I was Lorri.  Mrs. Snyder called me Patty.  Mrs. Zona called me Patty, if I remember correctly.  Even if I wasn't mistaken for them, the first day always started like this as they called the attendance roster for the first time:

Teacher: Mancone, Nichole Mancone?
Me: Here
Teacher: Mancone?  Are you related to Patty? (or Lorri, or Susan, or Louis, or Paul or Roger...)
Me: Yes, yes I'm related, they are my aunt/uncle/dad

My cousin Jimmy just graduated high school last year and for the first time in DECADES there is not a Mancone related family member in the NP school system.

When I was in first grade, my mom took me for my yearly physical and the doctor noticed that I would stand on the outside of my feet, essentially rolling my ankles out.  Not a great habit.  He recommended enrolling me in dance class.  It would help my overall posture and my habit of standing on my ankles.  And so my lifelong love affair of dance was born.  You would think being naturally shy and reserved I would not be interested in performing.  You would be wrong.  I LOVED it!  I got trotted out right away.  My dance teacher, Miss Cheryl, would set up little performances at senior centers for the holidays and I still remember clear as day, my first one.

Miss Cheryl's house at the time was pretty close to mine.  She asked my mom if I would be interested in dancing at a local nursing home for a holiday performance.  I was so she said yes, but mom couldn't take me.  She had my little sister at home and if you knew my sister at age 3, you knew she was not sitting still and being quiet for anything.  Miss Cheryl said she would pick me up and drop me off and I think I died and went to heaven.  Here was my pretty, young dance teacher, my idol at the time, picking me up in her little sports car to take me to a performance.  I don't know if I was capable of speech that whole day.  It was the highlight of my 6 years.

My little world expanded beyond North Providence when I started 7th grade.  I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend BayView Academy.  It was in East Providence, on the other side of the city, on Narragansett Bay.  After walking to school for many years, I now rode the bus, wore a uniform, and went to school with all girls.  After K-6 in the local public school, I was now a Catholic school girl.  And oh what a class I was in.  I've got an idea for a future post about the great things the women from my class are doing in this world, but that's another post for another day.  Suffice it to say, I was in amazing company for 6 years from grades 7-12.  

After graduating high school, I hit the road for college.  One state over, in Connecticut.  But my goal was to go away.  I'll cover my college years in another post in this series, but once I turned 18 and moved to college, I never lived more than a year in Rhode Island again.  I love my home state - it's quirky and charming and the birthplace of coffee syrup.  What more could you ask for?
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