Growing Up In Newport


Now the youngsters were quieted, as everybody of all ages always is, by digging. Save, now and then, the individual cry of triumph. The successful digger sometimes raced at once to the boardwalk committee to claim her gorgeous doll or his—alas—painted pillow. Higher types of youngsters packed the block under one arm and explored for more. Near us our cousins, the twins Olga and Bertha and their sister Margaret, quickly unearthed several blocks, enhancing their everlasting superiority over us. For there was our kind of kid who stayed luckless. No matter where we thrust in our shovels, we were wrong again. Instead of concentrating, we more and more frantically dashed about on the beach, prodding here, slashing there. The crowd had thinned down to a handful of the determined—some staggering with a wealth of blocks and mad for another; some like Jeannette and me, wildly hopeful that we could yet, despite the multitude’s onslaught, uncover just one miraculously missed block. Oh, not to have the beautiful, looked-forward-to, exciting day leave us, after all, empty-handed.

But it did. Presently there were only a few desperate children, like ourselves, now aimlessly, shovel in hand, wandering the beach, heads unmovingly down as though the eyes might x-ray a treasure-trove. Or as though some heedless youngster among the successful might have left exposed the corner of one ultimate block. But no. My father strolled across the sand to us and said, “Well, never mind: everybody can’t be lucky all the time. Just wait till next year.” I thought, as we tagged along beside him back to the boardwalk, what an eon away next year was, and neither Jeannette nor I said anything.

We were somewhat cheered by a ride on the merry-go-round and a bag apiece of saltwater taffy and boxes of Cracker Jack. These last we chewed as we started up Bath Road on the walk to Cranston Avenue. And so with each step we walked out of summer and its fragrances and sounds. Distanter, steadily, the clump of the great surf on the beach and amidst it the cascading roar of the roller coaster and tinkling across it the bell of the merry-go-round as though hectically sounding—as in a few hours it would —for the last ride of all. Even a short way along Rhode Island Avenue we lost all the sounds, and the wet smell of sea breeze yielded to the dusty smell of yellowing leaves on the maple and chestnut trees lining the street.