MY LIFE – Interconnectivity

MY LIFE – Interconnectivity

Interconnectivity might not be the precisely correct word here, but it was the word that sprang to mind after a very enjoyable visit with old friends earlier this week (although the full title of this piece should, perhaps, more correctly be, “The Unexpected Interconnectivity That Comes of Living in A Small Mill Village”). But before I get any further into the weeds here, I should just get on with how this whole line of thinking unfolded.

My old friend Sandy and her husband were up here on their annual trip from Florida and stretched kind of thin for time, visiting family and friends across three or four different states, so it was decided that Sandy and I would get together for lunch at Ye Olde English on Wednesday.

Richard dropped her off at my house, and when he came back later to retrieve her and had time to come in and sit for a spell, conversation quickly grew lively.

Sandy had been a Woonsocket girl, but Richard had grown up in my own hometown of Manville. One would have expected that given the fact that he is three years younger than me, had grown up at the other end of town, and had gone to public school instead of the local parochial school, our life experiences – and memories – would have been totally different. But as it turns out, one would have been wrong. The more we talked, the more our memories were tripping over each other.

From “L’Agathe’s,” (said with a French accent) more correctly called Ben’s Lunch and where as a school kid I once ate the best fish and chips in the world, to CoCo’s Spa where all the locals bought their sports equipment, including the fishing rods my father had bought for us kids in 1953, and beyond, our memories intersected.

His mention of his friend Gene Sene made me shout out, “From the corner of Division and Railroad Street? My aunt used to live upstairs from them,” and from there to the Beauregard families, his anglicized pronunciation of the name (he’s Polish) different from my own native Manvillian French way of saying it. There was one family on the second floor (Me: “Older girl named Lillian, younger girl whose name I never knew because they always called her Fille, pronounced like Fig?” Richard: “Yeah, Fig,” but not related to the two families on the third floor where I think Mrs. Sene’s maiden name was Beaurgard and her father was the old man in the apartment next to theirs whose real name I never knew because we all just called him “Va t’en chez vous” (Go home!) since that’s what he used to yell at all of us kids whenever he saw us. “And he had a rowboat that he kept tied up down by the river,” I continued. To which Richard, big smile on his face, immediately came back with, “We used to take that boat out on the river to catch hundreds of frogs!”

Richard: “And the Armstrongs. They lived next to Sarrault’s garage.”

Me: “Norman? We lived right upstairs from them.”

He knew the whole Goulet family from the brick blocks (my friend Rita’s family. Her brother Charlie used to deliver groceries from Hebert’s store across from St. James School in his teens), the Riels and the Guevremonts, and all the various branches from which they had sprung, along with all the stories the memories brought forth, all with connections to both of us, albeit in varied and different ways.

Some, like the tragic accidental shooting that took the life of a young teen while target shooting out in the woods at Grandfather’s Falls, that while only vague to him, still remains one of the saddest memories of my childhood. Others, like the fire that gutted a large section of Manville in 1956, which is still a full-blown memory for both of us.

“There was an artist in town, Tina Privitara’s father, who I think painted the murals inside Saint Ann’s Church in Woonsocket,” Richard mentioned, to which I replied, “Yes. Frank Privitara. He and his wife were good friends of my parents. Also an excellent photographer. In fact I still have photos he took of my two older kids when they were little.”

Then toward the end of our visit, after discussing all the friends and acquaintances we had in common, came the grand finale that really floored me, when Sandy mentioned the name Muriel Benoit.

“As in Muriel Plante?” I asked. “She just joined our French Group. In fact, our next meeting is at her house next week. How do you know her?”

“I’ve known her and the Benoits almost all my life,” Richard replied, and then proceeded to regale us with even more memories that made us laugh. Sandy volunteered that she is still using Muriel’s lasagna recipe, passed on to her many years ago.

“It really is a very small world, isn’t it?!”

It was only after we said our good-byes and they drove away that the whole interconnectivity of our lives occurred to me. How we can all blissfully go along, sometimes not even knowing each other, growing up in the same place and time, unaware of just how intertwined and intermingled we all really are.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.