My first column was around this time of year in 2004. I can't believe it's been so long. Maybe it was even 2003. This is on my mind because I have embarked on my annual winter cleaning of closets/drawers/boxes and bags of "stuff" I haven't looked at in a while. That's the glitch. While I begin this project with high expectations of a spotless, junkless feng shui result, no extraneous stuff, only zen emptiness where chi can flow unimpeded, I always have to look, and that's where everything stalls.
Last week, I spent a lovely afternoon going through boxes of old family photographs that belonged to my mother and grandmother. I divided them into piles to be put in albums for this year's Christmas presents to my family. Now the boxes are still on the floor and the albums, glue, photo corners, pretty paper to attach them to are spread out across the dining room table. Along with my as-yet-unwrapped art supplies to bring to Red Stocking this week, a red wooden box of amaryllis bulbs I'm hoping Porter won't notice, and enough wrapping paper and ribbons to enfold most of West Tisbury.
But back to the column. There was a bag in our guest room closet, filled with yellowed copies of the MV Times that I hadn't gotten around to cutting my columns out of to file somewhere where I have a chance of finding them again in my lifetime. Note: I really do have such a place. It's called a file cabinet. It contains file folders labeled "My Columns" and holds paper-clipped together copies of my typewritten columns with the printed version from the newspaper. Downstairs I went with the bag, and repaired to my beloved sofa with a cup of tea, a scissor, a beautiful Lisa Strachan bowl I keep my paperclips in, Talley by my feet, and Porter trying to decide whether to chew or claw up the papers or my toes or Talley's tail anytime anything moved.
I began reading my old columns from 2009 and 2010. Reminiscing about events, visits from friends, the Ag Fair, summer's heat, the winter moth devastation of trees, walks on beaches, births, deaths, parties and memorial services, the yearly procession of life and seasons in our town. It took me two days to go through all of them.
The best part was rereading Chilmark columns written by my dear friend, Jackie Sexton, a gentle and insightful recorder of her town's events. I saved all of her columns, too. Does anyone remember the winter she challenged us to come up with obscure definitions at the end of every column? She was the best.
So that was last week. I haven't even begun to go through old clothes and all the empty shoeboxes Mike needs to save. I don't even want to think about the boxes stashed along the knee walls that neither of us has looked at since my last purge. I invite anyone who is neat and a good thrower-outer to call, email, or offer in person any suggestions for how to divest myself of all this stuff. I suppose the solution is to pitch those boxes without even opening them. But what if I find something really good I've forgotten all about?
Another thing to note, back at Christmas 2009, my friend Sue Hruby suggested to Mike that closet doors would make a great present for me. Just mentioning it.
Meanwhile, Christmas is coming. All the lights and decorations look more beautiful than I remember. Middletown Nursery looks like a fairyland of white lights. I think their tree/greens sale by sixth-graders last weekend was a big success.
Libby Fielder still needs volunteers for the West Tisbury Church's Christmas Eve Pageant. All children ages 5 to 13 of any faith are welcome to participate. One caveat is that they must be available for a dress rehearsal the day before the performance. Please call Libby at 508 684-8086 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reminders of parties and concerts I wrote about in last week's column: Saturday, December 15, the Vineyard Sinfonietta and mezzo-soprano Martha Hudson will perform at 2:30 at the Howes House. On Sunday, December 16, Katherine Long's Winter Solstice party is from noon to 9 pm. Bring something delicious to share. All welcome, but no dogs, please. At 3 that afternoon is the West Tisbury Church Holiday Concert, featuring organists David Roderick and Phil Dietterich, with the Church Choir.
Dick Doane celebrated his 87th birthday at a party hosted by his niece, Linda Doane, at her family's home. Guests included Nelson Bryant, Ruth Kirchmeier, and Cliff Athearn. Also invited, Muriel Bye and Ann Howes declined, as both had the flu. Dinner was Mexican food, in honor of Dick's love for all things Southwestern. Dessert was orange chiffon cake. It all sounds delicious and festive. Belated Happy Birthday wishes.
Jacob and Elizabeth Ohlhausen will be arriving from California to spend the holidays with Jacob's mother, Ruth Kirchmeier, and Nelson Bryant. A quiet Christmas is planned, with walks and always amazing food.
Sarah Mayhew will be here for the holidays with her mom, Shirley, siblings Deborah and Jack, and their families. Sarah flies in from California on December 19. Lucy, Jack and Betsey's younger daughter, arrives the following day. Their eldest, Caroline, comes from Washington, D.C., on the 22nd. Following the Christmas festivities, Katie, Deb's daughter, will be performing at First Night Chatham on New Year's Eve.
Three babies were baptized at last Sunday morning's service at the West Tisbury Church. They are Rose Athearn, Penelope Athearn, and Sawyer Briggs. May they all have healthy, happy, and productive lives.
One of the most fun parties of the holiday season will not take place this year. Due to obvious lack of space, there will be no library party.
Well, back to the closets and boxes. I have bags of books for next summer's book sale, clothes for the Thrift Shop, a neat pile of old columns. Now if I can refrain from going through old letters and Christmas cards from the past several years, magazines that I saved for some long-forgotten article, yarn and fabrics intended for something.
I'm convinced this stuff reproduces in the night when no one is watching.