Town Column : West Tisbury
Sometimes I just don't know where to begin. This past week, for me, has been momentous, as the passing of "my other mother," Norma Salop, last Monday night has eclipsed all else in my world. I have thought all week of what I want to say about Norma and how to say it. But as I approached my deadline, still not having begun this column, thoughts and memories swirling, I just don't know where to begin.
Norma discovered the Vineyard with the Hollywood crowd of her second husband, Jerry Marvin. Years later, after she and Bob were married, they bought a piece of land on Tiah's Cove Road. Otis Burt built their house and they settled in for the summers, returning to New York where Bob taught and Norma did antique shows. Their dream was to retire here to West Tisbury, which they did in the early 1980s. The 1.7 acres that Mike built our house on was sold to him by Bob and Norma. They were always just through the woods.
Reading my notes and emails, driving and walking around town, having the normal life of West Tisbury continuing around me, has been a comfort. Although I have taken to my bed, as I do in all bad times, I have come forth enough to see lambs dining on fresh grass along Music Street, the evening light streaking across spring-green fields, light and shadow shapes ready for painting, the cloud patterns of rain or fair weather. Our Paths Beside the Roads Committee met Saturday afternoon to walk the recently completed path along Edgartown Road. People had parties and events and life continued, so I will begin with your news and then return to my own.
This Friday night, May 9, Nicole Galland will read from her new book, "Crossed," at the Bunch of Grapes. The program will begin at 7:30 pm. Nicki is a terrific speaker, easy and humorous, so the evening should be entertaining as well as informative. Her books are historical fiction, this one set at the time of the Fourth Crusade and the sacking of Constantinople in 1204.
Martha Moore is the featured artist at the West Tisbury Library for the month of May. She will be at the library on May 21 at 4 pm to talk about her landscapes, techniques, and inspirations.
My mother-in-law just stopped by and reminded me that she will open her antique shop for the season this Friday, May 9. Drive down Edgartown Road and you will see her blue chair and her sign on a tree marking the driveway.
Saturday, May 10, at 11 am, Vineyard Gardens will present a workshop, "Pruning: How, When, and Why." Chris Wiley has planned a special daylong celebration for Mother's Day on Sunday at the nursery.
Congratulations and welcome to the Hoffs of Oak Leaf, owners of the refurbished Middletown Nursery that officially opened on May 1. Don Brown is their very knowledgeable manager, and his interest in unusual trees and shrubs will make Middletown's selection stand out. Redbuds and Halesia monticola lined the fence along State Road, making a very pretty picture for gardeners and passersby.
Nancy Weaver told me about "Ride your bike to work week," May 12-16. You can find details by googling biketoworkmassachusetts.
There is still time to take advantage of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society's early bird half-price subscription for year-round Islanders. Call 508-696-8055 or ask any member of the Chamber Music Society board.
Now the hard part.
I met Norma soon after moving to the Vineyard in 1982. She had a very spiffy antique shop, Cove Hollow Antiques, on South Summer Street in Edgartown. I rented a space in the same building to open my gallery and lived upstairs with my black lab, Leo, and ginger cat, Peggy.
Cove Hollow Antiques specialized in silver, porcelain, and glass. Norma had the walls painted dark silver gray with gleaming glass shelves across the windows. Everything sparkled, most of all the grande dame presence of Norma Salop. She was always dressed for business, in dresses or suits, hosiery, and pumps, wide silver cuff bracelets on her wrists, and around her neck were artful combinations of silver and gold necklaces and amber beads of varying lengths and colors. Her eyes flashed and sparkled, as did her personality. Norma was engaged, with life and all around her. She shared her knowledge most generously, whether to someone who just wandered into her shop, to a collector who returned annually and with great fanfare, or to any number of people she encouraged and taught about the antique business. She was truly happy to help others flourish. Her shop was where we all gathered, warmed by her honest interest and affection.
She was like that with everyone. At her funeral service in Brookline, I met Charlie, Mark, Spencer, John Menaghini, Rob Fitch, Linda, Oscar, Bruce, Mary Kay, Angela, and a host of others, They were antique dealers and collectors, her mailman, her visiting nurse, the friend who adopted her beloved dog, Oliver, everyone who ever worked in The Greenhouse, where she lived after moving her shop to Boston. She made tea for the lady at the desk, remembered the janitors' children's birthdays, flirted with all the guys, and was consulted daily by all of us about everything from a new silver purchase to Big Papi's batting slump, and of course, our romances. Norma introduced me to Michael, the son of her dearest friend, Bobby Hull. She always reminded me that she loved him first.
Yesterday morning at ten o'clock, Mike went across the street to radio check at the firehouse. It was so quiet at home. Usually Norma and I talked then, so we wouldn't disturb Mike with our yacking away. She was buried in the West Tisbury Cemetery on Thursday. The double rows of flowering pear trees were at their peak and our cemetery has never looked prettier. She was happy to be coming back to the Vineyard, although I know she, her essence, is not really there. She is in the hearts of all who loved her, everyone she loved. She is watching the Red Sox and pawing through a box of silver, looking for something special to show me, to tell me about an artist I would like and how I had to come up so we could visit the gallery together. And eat in the Chinese restaurant. And look at the gardens around Boston. When she felt stronger, I should come up.
My condolences to her family: her children, Lynn, Ross, and Alex, and her husband, Bob, and to all whose lives she touched.