"Barrington? You can't live in Barrington," my father-in-law said matter-of-factly when my husband, Brett, and I announced where, in the vast state of Rhode Island, we would be buying a home. He shook his head back and forth like, you idiots.
I was surprised by his response. After all, we were moving from Scarsdale, New York to Somewhere, Rhode Island - his home state! My father-in-law lives in Cranston, a central location in the smallest state in the Union, and therefore was bound to be no more than 30 or so minutes from wherever we decided to live.
In New York, you can live in Albany, which is two hours from Syracuse, which is two hours from Buffalo, which is six hours from Manhattan. And don't even get me started on how far away Montauk is on a Friday during the summer.
Which is why I thought my father-in-law would be happy with our choice of Barrington. But no.
Moving on. We told Brett's uncle our plan.
"Barrington? You can't live in Barrington!" He said, echoing not only his brother's disdainful tone of voice but also his somewhat perturbed facial expression. They really do look alike, those two.
"Why the heck not?" I asked. "Why can't we move to Barrington?" I said to an entire room full of Gerstenblatts. They all live here, you see. Most never left. And Brett was moving back after living in New York for the past 20 years, bringing with him a very New York-centric wife and two Yorker-ish kids.
The Gerstenblatt clan seemed excited that we were coming to Rhode Island. Until we picked the wrong town in which to settle.
"You can't live in Barrington because there's only one road in and one road out," Brett's father explained, semi-patiently, as if talking to semi-idiots. Brett's uncle (and aunt, sister, other aunt, other uncle, brother-in-law, etc and etc) nodded in agreement.
Ah, the dreaded Route 114, commonly known by its Native American name, the Wampanoag Trail. ("Wampanoag" translates into "One Road, Idiot," in my Cranston-to-Barrington dictionary.) On a map, the peninsula connecting Barrington to Providence juts out to the east and continues southward, with the vein of the Wampanoag Trail running down the length of it like a urethra through a ...oh, you get the picture.
Now, let me ask you this. It's a serious question. Can any one person, in any given moment in time, travel on more than one road? And, if the answer is no, then how many roads did I need, in Barrington, or anywhere else in life, really?
And, the not-quite-ready-to-leave New Yorker in me reasoned, since no road in Rhode Island would take me quickly to my favorite diner in Scarsdale to meet my best friend for a last-minute lunch date, what did it matter if it was The Wampanoag Trail or the Yellow Brick Road? In my forties, the road of life took my metaphorical SUV on an unplanned journey. I held on to the steering wheel for dear life. Assessing the damage and finding only small injuries, I brushed myself off and course-corrected. An internal compass pointed us towards Barrington, a charming, coastal New England town with great schools and friendly people. It's not like my conscience was telling me to kill fluffy bunnies, right? My life had diverged in a yellow wood, and I had picked the Wampanoag Trail.
So. With family still peeved at us for deciding not to live in the many-roaded West Bay, Brett and I went through a home inspection and booked a painter for the month of July.
Then I got the call. "Hi," I said, seeing the caller ID with my father-in-law's name as I picked up the phone in my home office.
"Hey," Steve said, "I just went by your house."
I got up from my desk chair and glanced out the window, to the Scarsdale street below and the pretty meadow beyond. Ah, I was going to miss that meadow.
"My house?" I asked, dumbly.
"Yeah, in Barrington."
"Oh!" And then, "You did? Why?" Worry hit my gut. "Are you going to, like, do that all the time?"
Part of why I was moving to the East Bay was because of the rumor that people from the West Bay never came into the East Bay. Too far, they said. One road, they agreed. But my father-in-law just had! He had swung by! And I wasn't even living there yet! This did not bode well for my need for Space. I was accustomed to having Connecticut as a buffer state; now I would only have a rinky-dink bridge.
"I've got great news!" Steve continued. "There's another road!"
"Another road?" I said, leaning back in my desk chair, a smile creeping across my face. "You mean - beyond the Wampanoag Trail? No way."
"Yes, yes! I didn't realize you lived out in West Barrington. You've got a road here called Washington. Takes you right in and out."
"Another road, one that goes both in and out?" I said. "You're kidding me."
"You're pulling my leg!"
"You mean, when the apocalypse hits and the tides ride and there's no food in the East Bay and the zombies start eating people and I have to flee, I don't have to take Route 114 for evacuation?"
"Huh?" He said. And then, not skipping a beat, he continued his report. "Also, where's your mailbox? I don't think you have a mailbox."
I thanked Steve and hung up. "Of course we have a mailbox," I said to Brett that night. "Who doesn't have a mailbox?"
July. Barrington. Two roads. No mailbox. On Day 6 without mail, I figured out how to get from my house to the Ace hardware store to purchase a metal box. And now, two years later, I am proud to report that I know my way around the area pretty well. I can get to Seekonk. I can get to the Providence Place Mall and the Warwick Mall and Garden City and all three of the West Bay Whole Foods locations. You know how I go? On the Wampanoag Trail. And every time - every, single, godforsaken time - I secretly, silently, shamefully curse it.
One damned road.
Just don't tell that to my in-laws.