Audrey Bartolomeo and her Christmas cactus.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

If you happen to visit the Public Works department, be sure to take a look at the huge Christmas cactus that sits on a high window sill in the front office, not too far from Audrey Bartolomeo’s desk.

Bartolomeo likes it that way. After all, she’s known that plant for just about 50 years.

She grew up in Cranston and she’d often go grocery shopping with her mother at the local Stop and Shop. One day, just before Thanksgiving, there next to the produce department sat some tiny 2×2 inch pots holding Christmas cactus plants. Young Audrey wanted one. Badly.

It was so small, one can imagine Audrey’s mother breathing a sigh of relief her daughter hadn’t asked for anything more extravagant.

“My mom said, ‘OK, we can get that,’” recalled Audrey. “I was 5, 6 years old.”

Audrey Bartolomeo and her mother, Eva Simone.

Of course, Audrey’s mother ended up taking care of the plant. It grew and grew.

“When my mother passed away, it ended up in my hands and I’ve been nurturing it since,” said Audrey. It came to live at Public Works, where it gets lots of sun and seems completely happy.

And, for Audrey, it’s a touchstone – a beautiful link to her mother, who once upon a time decided a little plant was just the thing for her daughter.


This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

%d bloggers like this: