Still Not Rhode Islanders …

Welcome to Rhode Island, the Ocean State, Welcome sign, living in Rhode Island, most liberal state, blue state, Seven years ago today, we closed on our home in Little Rhody and began our lives as Rhode Islanders, or so we thought.

We’d moved from Sparta, NJ, a town where we knew people everywhere we went, which I loved! Popping into the library with hellos, grocery shopping and chatting while selecting tomatoes, pushing a swing at the playground and calling out to a friend entering the gate. I loved the feel of the TV-perfect-small-town-charm. Little did I know that Rhode Island would be like moving to a large town where everyone is joined to everyone by a mere tethering thread.

Almost instantly, we discovered connections to both my hometown and my husband’s, weekly, new small world stories unveiled themselves. That know-everyone feeling we’d left behind was rebuilt amazingly fast in our new town and we quickly learned the state-wide personality and the typically Rhode Island quirks.

Officially, we still have decades to go before we’d be considered Rhode Islanders, and frankly, I kind of take pride in not being “official.” Though it shocked me one day to realize that my children are growing up here and will be true Rhode Islanders!

The language took some adjusting to, I couldn’t understand what a bubbler was, (pronounced, bubbla and means water fountain everywhere else). I nearly fell over when I was quizzing our second grader years ago: “Spell, ‘idea.’” He proudly replied, “I – D – E – R.” His teacher’s thick RI accent was affecting his learning and I quickly composed a song, the first in a repertoire, to counteract the dialect: “There is no ‘R’ in idea! There is no ‘R’ in idea!” Over our years here, there have been many times when one child will call out about another child, “Mooooom, we need to move! Anna said ‘Ka,’” Of course the offending child always vehemently denies any such swap of ending sounds, even if it may have slipped out.

I was baffled one of our early nights here when the local Gregg’s diner chain had chocolate and coffee ice creamthe bubbler, the bubbla, boy drinking from fountain, Rhode Island language, translating RI terms, but no vanilla. Coffee but no vanilla? When I expressed my confusion, the waitress replied, “Oh, yeah, we like to be sure to have the most popular flavors.” Puzzling. And I’m still not 100% sure what an awful or a cabinet are. I hear they’re wicked good.

Well-known tests to tell if you’re a Rhode Islander:
You believe that you have the right of way when making a left hand turn and that it’s totally appropriate to give someone the finger for going straight when you’re trying to make a left.

You have no problem being inconsiderate and pulling out to stop lanes of traffic forcing people let you in, but then you’re so considerate that you slam on your brakes in a line of cars causing a sudden braking chain reaction just to allow a stopped vehicle to enter from a parking lot.

You say, “It’s all the way in Barrington?” Everything in Rhode Island is easily under an hour point A to point B, yet you complain about how far everything is and pack a lunch to go to Newport.

You give directions to people using things that used to be there as guiding landmarks, for example, “You know where the old Apex used to be? Go right there. Then go down to where the old firehouse was and take a left.” If I knew where that used to be, I wouldn’t need your directions!

I joke that you could accidentally roll out of bed and be in another state, yet it’s not unusual for people to never leave. I could understand not venturing out of state if you lived in a big state like Texas or California, but we’re the tiniest state, it’s hard to NOT leave. If you do get out, the RI-Magnetism pulls you back in. It seems if both spouses didn’t grow up here, then the spouse who did wins and returns.

So neither Nick or I are locals and we’re a long way off from being “real” Rhode Islanders. I carefully watch before driving straight to guard against the left-turners and sudden-stoppers, I use GPS to give me directions Newport Bridge, Pell Bridge, Newport at sunset, lighthouse, lighthouse at sunsetbased on the roads that still exist and I have no problem hopping between towns, north to south without planning to stay overnight (though I have caught myself saying, “It’s all the way in Lincoln?” an early sign of transition to Rhode Islandism) We still drink from water fountains in our family and pronounce “er” as “er” and “a” as “a” at the end of words (mostly).

We love our life here. It is our home and we are well entrenched in our community with no plans for packing up anytime soon, except maybe to go to Providence for the day.

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22 Responses to Still Not Rhode Islanders …

  1. Joanna says:

    Love this!! Having moved to Rhode Island 8 years ago I can appreciate this, however I kind of consider myself a Rhode Islander right now 🙂

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      You’re ahead of me! Natives always tell me it’s too soon to be considered. Though, truly, I do feel like we’ve been here a long time – for the great majority of the kids’ lives – and it’s home.

  2. My husband makes fun of me all the time because I use “RI landmarks” all the time (where things used to be). When I go to the beach I take the Fiddlesticks exit. It’s been years since Fiddlesticks was torn down. I don’t think I even know the real exit numbers.

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Fiddlesticks – Never heard of it! 🙂 I guess you’re the RI spouse who pulled him here with you?

  3. LOL!! We’ve lived her for 15+ years. You are right on the button. My oldest 2 children don’t have a RI accent but by the time the younger 2 started talking we were involved with extra curricular activities and they were exposed to more native RIers. As a result, I work hard to keep those Rs in their words, but I think it’s a losing battle.

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      You’ll need to keep that as a consideration for baby naming! No Heather, Peter, Tyler or Amber = Heatha, Peta, Tyla or Amba. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

      • lol!! I hadn’t thought of that! Baby already has a name – Matthew Stephen. Matthew= gift of God, which describes this surprise baby. And Stephen because none of my kids have MY name and this is the boy version of Stephanie. It’s also my brother’s name.

  4. I’ll never be a RIer either. I miss my home where people were more friendly, but I honestly felt so amazing after dinner the other night, that I felt true happiness outside of my home for the first time in a long time.

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Nothing like a good girl’s night out to lift the spirits!

      I feel quite settled here and connected to the community in so many ways, and RI IS home to us now – yet I always hear how isn’t long enough to really “qualify!” 🙂

  5. Hey, we’re also the only state that has Watah Fiyah!

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Oh my gosh, that is so funny. It actually took me a few tries and saying it out loud to understand what you wrote! 🙂 I’m laughing out loud! Love it! And I love water fire, too!

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