It’s almost time for me to leave Newport, RI. My husband, Cameron, and I tried to generate a list of things we’ll miss about the town itself. It consisted of:
- Being able to walk to most places
- The architecture is nice
- The neat characters in town, including bongo man, who plays the bongos poorly along to his boom box behind a purple metal grate, and lacrosse man, who wears all black spandex and twirls his lacrosse stick as though he was the town’s drum major
That was it. The first item can generally be found by looking at specific neighborhoods in any town. The second is endemic to the whole of New England. The last item wasn’t specific Newport either. Most small towns have their fair share of oddballs. For years, a man in Santa Cruz, CA walked up and down the main street dressed in all pink and smiling broadly at all passersby.
The list of items we won’t miss about Newport is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that we’re ready for a bigger house and eternal summer in Hawaii.
There is something we will pine for after we leave though: our friends. Cameron and I have connected with some of the kindest, funniest, most caring and intelligent people here. We will undoubtedly miss them.
When I first got to Rhode Island, I had a little trouble making many friendships. Mary-Jaq was my first friend who I regularly spent time with, then Sally. But I knew with every bond I formed that there would be an eventual expiration date. I didn’t want to put too much energy into something ephemeral. I could only handle a few companions.
Then I met Tricia and Jessica. Jessica is the wife of one of Cameron’s best friends, and Tricia and I should have met years ago. She married my friend, Ben, but prior to that she and I ran in the same circle in Monterey before either of us were in the military family. We all clicked.
Suddenly I felt like I had a group. I felt involved. I felt cared for by people other than my husband in this town. I felt like I wanted to spend as much time with my friends as possible before they went on military moves, instead of feeling like I should keep my distance.
Unfortunately, they all PCS’d within a few months of each other. It looked like I was on the friendship dating market once again.
Spouse functions seemed like a good place to mingle. I went to a few, hoping to meet a few ladies. Every time I met someone who acted cool, I’d whip out my phone and request digits. Moments later I’d take this information and facebook stalk my new best friend to make sure she was really as awesome as I’d assumed. This tactic is now lovingly referred to as “forcing my friendship” by a few of my pals.
After months of forcing friendships, I began setting up lady lunches with new best friends. A lot of the spouses in Newport, RI, are unemployed. RI boasts an extremely high unemployment rate, and many spouses are only here for 6 months. It was the perfect recipe for midday hangouts.
The first big lady lunch made me realize that I liked these gals. We were all around the same age and we’re all in Rhode Island because of the Navy. That was enough to get the conversation started.
The group decided to do weekly lunches, and we’d attend as our schedules permitted. One of the early lunches, maybe the second or third, took place at Pour Judgment Bar and Grille. We still didn’t know each other particularly well, but we enjoyed the company. Every now and then there was a brief lull in conversation before a new topic was introduced.
I have no recollection of how this came up, or in what way it was pertinent to the conversation that day. All I know is that after a brief pause someone said she had a friend with two vaginas. Manners were forgotten as mouths fell open. Nobody quite knew how to respond.
Then one gal piped up: “Did you see it? I mean see them?”
Now we were laughing. The vaginas had not been verified by eye witness. The questions and speculations started pouring in.
“Does she have two uteruses? Is that a word?”
“If so, can she get pregnant once in each for pseudo twins?”
I casually mentioned a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread from a man with two penises.
“Those two are meant to be,” somebody responded. Everyone guffawed.
Somewhere amidst the questions and laughter, I realized that this was my group now. I had friends. I had friends who responded with inquisitiveness instead of disgust when medical anomalies were introduced to conversation. I’d had a few friends still in the area before the group started up, and we’re all still friends, and I still love them. But the larger group made me feel like I had a safety net. It gave me my first inklings of what the extended military family can really mean.
I have male friends and Navy friends here too. There are too many to name, and I am so grateful for that fact. They will all be missed. Every time one of my friends has left I’ve felt the void of their absence, and it is now just dawning on me that my departure may do the same for those still here.
My last lady lunch is drawing near. I’m not sure where we’ll go. (Ladies, I’m thinking this looks good:)
In the last 6 months or so we’ve done high-end and low-end locations, and even had one violin concert potluck. I hope I can make friends in Hawaii who make me feel the same sense of community.
At times I’ve felt like Newport wasn’t worth it. Many people love it here, but in my core I’m not meant for New England. I despise winter, and I can’t understand a Boston accent. (Excuse me, Baaaaahhhhhstaaahhhn.) Even with these inconveniences, I’m glad we came. The people I’ve connected with have made it one of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences of my life so far.