Mom and I ‘Do a Little Italian’

I couldn’t find any photos of the Spaghetti House (long gone from Providence), but here’s a place for divine bread–Seven Stars Bakery, at two locations in Providence, Rhode Island, on Hope Street and Broadway.

I grew up in the milltown of West Warwick, Rhode Island, which had as its central hub, Arctic, a mecca for all who shopped in a much simpler era of the 50’s and 60’s. But occasionally, Mom couldn’t get what she needed in Arctic, and on those occasions, she’d bring me (her older daughter) to downtown Providence.

If the truth be told, I also think she just needed to “Get away.” After all, being a stay-at-home Mom to 4 little kids and wife to a husband who didn’t believe in time-saving devices (Mom did without a washer or dryer ‘til we all we were all in college) couldn’t have been easy.

Providence was a daytrip in that era, before Route 95 was a reality. Dad dropped us off at the bus stop and she and I took the bus into the city. It was exciting for a young child–especially one who had 3 siblings. It was “alone time” for Mom and me.

In the winter, I tried to keep up with her, as we went from the various stores: Cherry & Webb, Shepard’s, the Outlet Co., Peerless…all were her territory. I’d look up and see starlings roosting in the eaves of the buildings and hear their screeching, as they protested the cold.

At these times, Mom was bent on a mission to find whatever…a dress, a suit, something she needed, and I was her accomplice.

To take the curse of “All work,” and after we’d accomplished our mission, she brought me to the Spaghetti House, for lunch, and we two sat in a booth, where she had a Manhattan (only one, but the cherry fascinated me) and I’d have a cherry Coke.

Around us, on the walls were painted murals of women in Italy stomping on grapes in huge vats, seemingly having the time of their lives. Each portrayed a different step in the process of wine-making, and they all worked in a vineyard.

To my young girl sensibility, I thought it a terrific way to earn a living…just stand around crushing grapes all day, laughing and singing. After all, my family was mostly Irish and if you’ve read “Angela’s Ashes,” you realized early on: There was nothing pretty about the Irish lifestyle–especially in the lean years (when my ancestors left the Old Sod.)

Aside from the colorful murals on the walls, my favorite aspect of the Spaghetti House was their bread rolls, for they were divine (to this day, I can’t understand why some restaurants offer mediocre–or even ‘bad’– bread when some bakeries produce spectacular offerings.)

When Mom took 2 of us kids into Providence (on really rare occasions), we hoarded that bread, asking for a second basket and storing the rolls we didn’t eat in one of the shopping bags, before Mom noticed. We’d finish them off on the way home…They were that good.

The pizza was sublime, too (makes sense since that same dough was the main ingredient). Just enough marinara sauce, devoid of all else, a pure delight, unencumbered by toppings. Chewy crust, just the right thickness, a great sauce (gravy). It came as a huge rectangle, and I’ve never tasted its equal since (though Caserta on Federal Hill is close.)

So, the rare occasions when Mom and I were alone on a Big City Adventure….me trying to keep up with her as she raced about downtown streets, darting in and out of the big department stores…the screaming starlings, and the Spaghetti House where Mom and I became Italian, if only for a while…

I loved it all…They’re some of my favorite memories of youth, and they really do prove: Children remember the things you’d least suspect, so to all those parents today who seek to give their children all sorts of technological, state-of-the-art toys and gadgets–”Don’t be misled; it’s the experiences… the time shared… they’ll most remember.”

We didn’t have much in the way of material things, but those singular memories are what I hold dear today….and I believe that’s true of most folks I know.

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***I might have been little when I went there, but I recognized, even then, the Spaghetti House’s singular excellence. Brown Alumni Magazine mentions the importance of the Spaghetti House to its theatrical evolution (and there are some drama “greats” mentioned here)…Read about it in this copy and please–anyone–send me photos or “verbal pictures” of your own experiences with a parent–the stuff of memories; you can post them or I’ll post them for you, if you don’t know how…Send to biddy@biddybytes.com or ckmellor@cox.net.

http://www.brownalumnimagazine.com/content/view/1192/40/

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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