I came late to WaterFire, I was still in Ireland when it started and then I moved to Florida before Rhode Island, but there are people who live in Rhode Island who have never been there. That blows my mind. I mean you live in a state that has an award winning sculpture by artist Barnaby Evans, consisting of eighty bonfires on the three rivers of Downtown Providence, and you don’t go see it? Not even once? It is not just the fires. There’s the people watching, the entertainment, the food. It is fun. It is mystical. It is sensuous and mesmerizing. You can even take a ride along the river in a gondola for crying out loud, and since 1994 you haven’t had one free summer evening to go see this? All I can say is some people are barbarians.
I love WaterFire. My first year in Rhode Island, my son and I went to every single lighting. And I have been to many, many since. It has been the scene of both happy and sad events for me. And some funny events. I even got my third (and final) husband because of WaterFire.
Get the sad out of the way. I was newly arrived in Rhode Island. I had just gotten my Broker’s license. WaterFire can bring up great emotion. It suddenly hit me I was celebrating getting my license and the person I most wanted to share that with was my late daughter. I was overcome. I sank down into the gutter and started sobbing uncontrollably. My poor ten year old son was trying to comfort me. A couple came along and the man squatted down and tried to help me. He was so kind. Between him and my son, I got myself under control. But as kind as the man was, the woman was that much of a bitch. He saw someone in trouble. She saw a tanned blond in tight jeans and a skimpy top. Actually, maybe it was her got me under control. I was determined to get up and stop crying to show I was not the drunken slut she was loudly proclaiming me to be, right in front of my son. The bitch.
Now a funny story. I will not name him. But there is a certain person who has held elective office or other state appointment his entire adult life. He has a very large forehead. Very. Very. Keep in mind, I was newly arrived here. So one night my son and I are walking around and as we pass one of the VIP tents, this man comes out and invites me in for a drink. He was hitting on me. Now I am a master of putting such a man in his place. But I thought he had Down Syndrome. So I was kind. I was not able to extricate myself until someone who knew him came up to talk to him. I didn’t give it much thought until a few days later when I saw him on the news giving a press conference. Oh. My. God. Well, me and my big mouth, I made the mistake of telling the story in the office. Thirteen years later, I still hear the story every now and then.
Now the husband. (Who will be mad I am telling this.) When I met him, my husband was dating someone else. I was his dirty little secret, the bit on the side. Most of the people in the office knew. Or guessed. Some felt bad for me and tried to counsel me. I was too young for him. He was never going to leave her. And so on. But I was in love. Now the way my husband tells the story, he had decided on me. But here is the real story. We were not seen together in public except on business. But he decided to take me to WaterFire. I guess he figured it was dark and no one would see us. HA! I was magnificent. Tall. Size six. Tanned. Long blond hair. I wore a baby blue outfit. Full length form fitting skirt that was below the navel and a long sleeved but very form fitting cropped top. Now my husband is not a classically handsome man. But he has a presence. He is striking. He looks like a powerful man. Especially smoking his Churchill cigar, as he was. With his arm around my waist, looking out over the fires. We made a beautiful couple. I wish I had a picture of us that night. Or better yet, the film. Unbeknownst to us, a reporter thought we made a beautiful couple and was filming us. We were all over the news. Everybody saw it. Including the other girlfriend. We were married the following March.
A little BSP here. In my fourth book, Not A Rhode Island Clue, there will be a proposal on a gondola at WaterFire. There is a lighting tonight. If you are anywhere near Providence, go. WaterFire is an experience.