Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coming back to Providence, Rhode Island

In this last week that our family was in Providence,Rhode Island, I felt like I learned more about my mother in law than I ever knew during the 35 years she was in my life. This is my journal spread from our day at sea, on the Sea Princess out of Wickford, RI, where my mother in law, Ann Aldrich spent summers in the house by the sea, pictured on the top.
She and her sister Edwina lived and played only a few blocks from here, and probably celebrated many events with their family in this beautiful little bandstand.
This tiny library was where Edwina had library card number 7 and Ann had number 13. They probably spent many happy hours here, too. This seemed to me to be a pretty idyllic place to grow up. And Summers were spent by the shore, just a short drive away in the village of Wickford.
This life all came crashing down, like the waves that descended upon them on the afternoon of September 21, 1938. While spending one last beautiful fall day at their beach house, a terrible storm raced up Narraganset bay, sweeping their house out to sea. Their mother could not swim and she told her two girls to save themselves and live each day. The girls, age 11 and 16, did just that, riding on the roof of the house until they could swim ashore and be rescued.
These two lived amazing lives and had wonderful families, and we knew for many years that they wanted, eventually, to return to the Narraganset bay. So on a beautiful Summer day last week, we gathered again aboard the Sea Princess with Captain Doug, to fulfill their wishes
This is the wreath I created to be cast along with the ashes that we spread through the water, and each person threw a red carnation which followed the wreath, drifting on the waves. Soon, a large yellow butterfly flew up alongside the boat, and hovered for a few moments before flying off. The captain was captivated by that, as he said they rarely fly out so far to sea. This was a fitting end to the day.


  1. This is lovely! It sounds like the beginning of a short story or a novel.

  2. Thanks,Suzie. Yes, a novel could easily be written about my mother in law, who went on to become a lawyer and federal judge. There is a book about the hurricane, titled Sudden Sea which I just heard about.

  3. A very touching post, Cynthia. The words and photos are a nice tribute to your mother-in-law, as was the memorial service.

  4. I read your post a few days ago and I seem not to be able to get over the story of her sending her daughters to safety. Very well written Cynthia thanks, I felt I was on shore watching.

  5. Thanks for sharing your family story and the wonderful way that you commemorated the sisters out at sea. Your journal page says it all.

  6. Wow what a tragic yet beautiful story, then lovely that they joined their mother out to sea at last, the butterfly gave me chills, what a story indeed. thanks for sharing that.

  7. Thanks for documenting Cynthia - and everything you did to make it so special. Another lovely part of this magical day that should be noted here - several family members went to the River Fire Clelebration that night in Providence where they play music and light bonfires all along the river. Jim and Cynthia got there first and unbenownst to the rest of us placed a luminary along the river in honor of Ann and Edie - one of hundreds flickering along the river bank. When the rest of us came walking through the throng of people the first luminary we walked up to was that one - I love it when the powerful magic that is all around us manifests itself so clearly!