The Little Town

I hope this is what heaven looks like.  This is a real sunset.
I hope this is what heaven looks like. This is a real sunset.
Courtesy of: Shannon Raneri

Home for me is where I’m most comfortable; when I feel relaxed or when my mind’s at ease.  Many people who know me know that I was born in Pennsylvania and I moved to Boston when I was about nine years old.  So, I consider myself a Pennsylvania girl because that’s where I spent over half my life (and I will gladly lay on a Philadelphia accent for you).  Plus, I get to share the title “Lehigh Valley Native” with Amanda Seyfried!  I went to the same orthodontist as she did and my mom worked with her parents for a bit.  But that’s beside the point.  No matter how many years I’ve lived in Pennsylvania and Boston, it will never amount to how comfortable and how at home I feel in this little town on the Delmarva Peninsula.

In that town, some of my favorite people live there, along with many of my favorite memories.  My aunt and uncle (my dad’s aunt and uncle, my great-aunt and uncle) have been living in there for 23 years while traveling up and down the East Coast each year.  Every Memorial Day weekend, my family and I visit them for four days.  I’m here to tell you that every year I look forward to those four days.  Many firsts for me happened there; my first words, my first cribbage game, my first crab, drumfish, clam, grouper throat (sounds disgusting, but it’s amazing when it’s smoked), and more.  I know Memorial Day Weekend was two weeks ago, but this is very special to me (just a heads up: it’s a lengthy article).

My dad and me fishing at the end of my aunt and uncle’s dock.

On each trip down to the Delmarva Peninsula, there’s usually one thing that stands out to me, or one thing that I take away.  It could be anything: stories about my aunt and her best friend, or five-year-old me sitting on the lap of my aunt and uncle’s friend as she taught me how to ride a golf cart.  Or riding through the dirt roads in the bed of a red 1966 Chevy.  Or the smell of their friend’s perfume when we visit her house a few houses down.  My aunt said that her friend hasn’t changed her perfume in years.  You end up leaving her house smelling like it.  But she has a true Southern “Bell” charm.  Our visits to her house are never shorter than two hours.  Years ago, a beautiful, half-ton thoroughbred horse stepped on my toe, ripped off the toenail, and managed not to break anything (that’s a great story for another time).

This trip in particular was special to me.  I wasn’t feeling great that Friday before I left.  Nothing about the day felt right, I was uncomfortable.  I could not wait to be dismissed.  When we landed at the airport, it seemed like an invisible fog was lifted from my shoulders (the real fog did roll in because it later downpoured).  My uncle met us at the airport with a huge smile and a massive umbrella as we hauled our luggage across the tarmac.  He drove us to his and my aunt’s house, where she was preparing dinner.  After hugs and the “You look great!” and “It’s so great to be here!” greeting, we had dinner, sat down, and talked for hours.  As if no time had passed.  And when you’re with these people, the hours fly by.  There is always something to be talked about, always a laugh to be shared, and always a story to tell.

The next day we just sat around.  That doesn’t sound like much, but it was the most relaxing day I had in a while.  I played cribbage with my aunt for the first time in over a year (cribbage terminology will be used).  I was very proud of myself – I won against her twice.  In a row!  I can’t even beat my dad in this game, and he can’t beat her more than once!  So two wins against my aunt is an achievement.  When I won the second time, she said, “I’m not playing for revenge, I’m playing to get even.”  And so she did.  She ended up winning the next two games, leaving us tied.  We played our tie-breaking game later.  I was losing miserably when I made the fatal mistake of discarding two Queens, sacrificing a 10-point hand that could’ve given me the lead.  “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!” my aunt says, a classic line of hers.

“But she’s certainly humming a tune,” I quip back, creating a comeback of my own.  She throws her head back and laughs, a trademark quality of my aunt’s.  To put me out of my misery, I tell her to hurry up.  My aunt scolds me in French.  I’ll tell her “Allez!” so we can end the game faster when I’m losing.  She’ll say “Presse moi pas!”  “Don’t rush me.”  Sometimes during the game, she’ll have me count in French, but I always butcher the numbers (my throat and tongue can’t make those sounds).

Our final day came quickly.  It was sad, as always, but that was all the more reason to make it memorable.  I spent a lot of this day with my uncle.  He’s the smartest and bravest person I know.  My sister and I are admirers of him.  My uncle and I sat out in the garage for a little bit, talking about classical pieces that came up over the radio, my favorite pieces and composers, and his too.  He told me of a piece, “Scheherazade,” a Russian piece that’s over fifty minutes long.  He says that it plays when the radio hosts go to the bathroom.  We shared a laugh over that.  Then I challenged him to some games of cribbage.  “Last time we played, you double-skunked me, then skunked me.  You said that you didn’t want to play me anymore cause I was a waste of your time.  At least one game, please!” I begged.  So later that day, my uncle and I played two games.  Surprisingly, I won one!  I was so happy; happier than when I won against my aunt.  But my uncle won the second game.  Whenever he started to win, he would exaggerate looking at his cards, taking a long time intentionally.  “Oh!  What cards do I have here?  *Gasp!*  Let’s see what this does!!” he would say in a high-pitched voice before pegging five points.  The only time when I enjoy losing is when I’m playing with my uncle.  I offered to play a third, a tie-breaker, but my uncle said to wait; our tie-breaking game would be something to look forward to next time (as if there isn’t enough to look forward to!).  The rest of the day was peaceful.  My aunt and I took a walk, my family and I helped cook (mainly watching my aunt cook, but we helped her set the table), and after dinner, we all sat around the table and talked for hours.

The one thing I took away from this trip, this time, was my aunt and uncle’s enjoyment of life.  No matter what the weather is, what’s happened in the past, or what will happen in the future, there is always room for smiles, laughter, a good story, and love.  Yes, that may sound sappy, but it’s true.  You have to meet them to believe it.  So, a part of me has always considered their little town home.  My stressors magically disappear and I’m surrounded by my favorite people.  I’ll say it again: those three or four days are the ones that I look forward to the most every year.  And each time, our visit can’t fly by faster.  These are people that I truly, truly cherish.

Love you lots!  Câlins et baisers!

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About the Contributor
Shannon Raneri, Writer
Hello!  My name is Shannon Raneri and I am a junior at Winthrop High School.  I am an avid writer and I am very happy to contribute my writing to The Viking Times, our Winthrop community, and beyond.  I write a variety of topics from current events, to sports, and entertainment.   On the rare occasion when I am not writing, you can find me reading, playing with my dogs, or watching "Friends" for the umpteenth time. Thank you for reading The Viking Times!

Comments (6)

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  • Z

    Zaineb FawziJun 10, 2024 at 4:07 pm

    Shannon, this sounds so nice and peaceful! It must be so great every year. Thanks for sharing this, the article was great and super well written!

    • S

      Shannon RaneriJun 11, 2024 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you, Zaineb!

  • C

    Chris Summa c/o Winthrop High SchoolJun 7, 2024 at 8:52 am

    Hi Shannon,
    Thank you for taking me along with you on your Memorial Day vacation with your family! I loved this article so much and brought back memories when I would visit my special family members. The photos you added gave that spark to your article; just beautiful! You have a beautiful family and beautiful memories to cherish…you are such a lucky lady!
    Great job!!!

    • S

      Shannon RaneriJun 7, 2024 at 10:42 am

      Thank you so much, Ms. Summa! It’s truly an amazing visit. Thank you for reading!

  • M

    Mark W DixonJun 7, 2024 at 7:55 am

    “Melfa” is simply what Massachusetts folk call “Melford.”

    Excellent article. As a fellow transplant from Parts West, I appreciate the wider worldview that can be hard to find in Winthrop. We’ll need to get Belle Isle to stock grouper throats.

    • S

      Shannon RaneriJun 7, 2024 at 10:44 am

      I laughed out loud at your first sentence! Experiences and views like these can be hard to find in a town like ours. Getting grouper throats at Belle Isle would be a step in the right direction! Thank you for reading!