This week, actually tomorrow, I’m flying from SFO to Boston to head back to the town I lived in from ages 1 to 13.

Southbridge, Massachusetts

Photo above was taken 2 weeks before the Stock Market crash of 1929 on October 14, 1929; photos courtesy the Optical Heritage Museum

It’s the town where both my parents, their parents and most of my first cousins were born – and raised for that matter.

I’m heading back for the wedding of my cousin Kimmy to her man CJ. I haven’t been back in a few years and it’s always exciting to see the town, re-dream fond memories and especially to see so many family members. So many of my cousins have children of their own now, so there’s always new babies to hold and smooch when I’m there. I have a crazy number of first cousins, second cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, etc etc etc.

While many cousins have moved away from this area through the years, a surprising number have moved back to raise their families. I love the draw family ties have! In fact, I’m sure at least once while I’m there, one of my Aunts will ask me when I think I’ll be moving “home”. It always makes me smile to hear this question, Even though I’ve lived with Pops in our house longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life.

There’s recorded history for the town going back before 1538. On Wikipedia I found information on the Native Americans who first lived there, and how after the American Civil war Irish and French Canadian immigrants settled there followed by the Polish, Greeks and Italians. Both my Grandfathers were Irish, one Grandmother is French Canadian and one was from Polish ancestry. Quite a beautiful mix, I’d say.

The town also has a long history of manufacturing optical products. In fact, I believe most of my grandparent’s and parent’s generation worked at the huge factory there called the A.O. (American Optical). At one time, this factory was the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic products, and at its height employed more than 6,000 people around the world. On Wikipedia, I also read that many of its workers were exempt from the draft during WWII since they were doing vital defense work, including making Norden bombsights and even some work on the Atomic Bomb. To read more about what Wikipedia has on Southbridge information click here.

To me, the town just holds fantastic memories of growing up in a large, Catholic family full of cook-outs, birthday parties, holiday get-togethers and lots of love and support.

I remember the veggie gardens growing huge in the summertime, apple picking with my parents and Grandmother in the fall, sledding and building forts in the snow mounds in the winter.

I also remember years of dance lessons as at one time, that was truly my “life”. I spent hours of my life from age 3 to 18 taking ballet, tap and jazz classes and loving every minute of it. Those years truly developed a love of dance and music that I carry with me to this day.

This trip will be unique as my mom will be coming up from Florida with my nephew Ty. I can’t wait to show him around and share memories I have of his dad and I growing up there. I know everyone will love seeing him too.

Stay tuned for more memories of growing up in a small New England town….


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