Today I met my friend Lori at a restaurant called Luigi’s – actually, we ate in the deli area, where you order at the counter. Luigi’s is just one of many, many Italian restaurants in Rhode Island, and Johnston certainly has its share. The restaurant is situated on Atwood Avenue (State Route 5), where Hartford Avenue (US Route 6) intersects, and is next to the Johnston Town Hall – a busy, very congested area that exemplifies urban sprawl.
So when Lori and I finished lunch and said our goodbyes, the easiest way for me to get home would have been to take either Hartford or Atwood to the Route 295 onramp and get on the highway (about a 15-20 minute drive home). But I hate driving on the highway! Maybe it reminds me too much of going to my former job, or maybe I just hate to have to “keep up” with the RI drivers who think a 55 MPH speed limit sign really means 75 MPH. Instead, I took the long way home – the other way. Heading out of Johnston and into western Cranston, I drove on Scituate Avenue, past Confreda’s. The Confreda family has farmed in Rhode Island since 1922, and holds its traditions dearly, trying to preserve the “family farm feeling” and give their customers quality, locally-grown produce. There are still farms on Scituate Avenue, although the McMansions seem to encroach more and more each time I come back.
From Scituate Avenue, I turned left onto scenic Seven Mile Road, with the big meadow and row upon row of day lilies on the right, the lovingly-restored White Rail Farm, past Henry’s Tree Farm, where families will begin arriving in early October to tag this year’s Christmas tree, into the village of Fiskeville, with the little cemetery next to the Tabernacle Baptist Church (“Bell ringing for worship at 9:25”). This part of town is old and somewhat run-down, with some yards well-kept and others gone to seed.
From Fiskeville, I drove parallel to the Pawtuxet River, past the old Harris Mill and into the village of Phenix. At Phenix Square, I stopped at the red light and looked at the tiny brown house on the corner – what is now William’s Barber Stylist used to be the Earl R. Handy Insurance Agency, the business my grandfather built after he left the Centreville Bank. This area, just a couple of miles from our home, was the place where my mother grew up, and I think of her often when I travel these roads. This way home provided me with more comforting memories than any highway ever could.