West Tisbury: To the Elms

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Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving, and everyone will be celebrating, or not, in their own ways.

Back in Ridgefield, Conn., there were years when I walked into town to the Elms for my Thanksgiving dinner, accompanied only by my book. The Scalas owned it then. I had happy memories of dinners there with my parents when they were alive, and found it comfortable to sit in my favorite spot, a tiny table set inside a floor-to-ceiling bow window, in an out-of-the-way, quiet room behind the bar. Bob and Mario Scala, who owned the inn now that their parents were gone, were only a little older than me. We had known each other all our lives. Some of the chefs and waiters were kids I had gone to school with. It all felt warm and familiar. There were years when I chose big holidays with friends’ families, but some years I wanted to be on my own. The walk home, a mile up Main Street, felt just right after my big meal.

Writing this, I feel sentimental about growing up in Ridgefield. It was a very small town in the 1950s and ‘60s. When I first arrived on the Vineyard it felt like home, a small town laid out much the same, with stores along a main street surrounded by houses, then spreading out to rural hills and generations-old family farms. Everyone knew everyone and their families forever. It’s still somewhat like that here in our winters, but both places have grown. In the winter, when people and life slow down, when we only see people we recognize and know, I am so grateful that serendipity brought me here.

It’s been more than half my life now, 36 years. New friendships have become enduring ones. I have had the privilege of loving children and watching them grow up, now loving their children, and so it goes. I have been so lucky to meet my husband Mike, for us to grow together and cherish each other “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,” through good times and difficult ones. The Ridgefield of my childhood is gone, changed. West Tisbury has changed, too, but somehow the essentials remain. The people I have known, admired, loved, some not so much, we are all inextricably mixed in this place and in our lives here.

Our family will be together at Mike’s cousin Hannah’s, at the Slocum House that their grandparents owned. Dan’l and Xiaoshi Hull and their daughter, Sunday, will come from off-Island for the weekend. The house will be warm and fragrant, dinner and diners spread out at tables butted together to span the width of Hannah’s dining room, all under a bright cloth. Turkey, pies, conversation, catching up, hugs, and lots of dishes to wash at the end of the day.

Mike and I could walk from our house if we want to.