One of the many benefits of marriage is the embellishment of shared rituals, particularly those involving Christmas lights and The Tree. Mike had replaced two sections of the fence surrounding our kitchen garden, the main entrance to our house. Typically, we decorate the fence and this year it was definitely the easy part of the overall job. I found enough lights, they worked when tested and also after being entwined with pine roping arranged in a decorative garland, and have kept working for two nights now. So far, so good.
The outdoor tree, an Alberta spruce outside my studio, took a bit more doing. Out of four or five strings of lights packed away last year, only one actually worked. Mike changed fuses, but they blew as soon as they were plugged in. On one, I actually found a note stating that these were only for replacement bulbs. It seemed like forever that I was plugging and unplugging, screwing and unscrewing bulbs, and finally ending up with two working sets and a neat package of "extra" bulbs, having thrown out the rest of the mess. This is pretty organized for me.
Nobody (meaning "I") could find enough indoor extension cords, plugs in our new dining room weren't as carefully placed as I thought I had laid out (meaning Mike didn't think we needed them where I had wanted them; he said, "They're right where I told Frank to put them"), so there were issues with the little candles I had gotten for each of the seven new windows, and there were no longer enough of the little white lights for the tree. Armed with a list, Mike and I ventured forth, found everything, and headed back home. I finished the outside tree and got all the candles set up and lighted in the windows. When Mike returned home (he had gone next door to put up his mother's lights, necessitating a return circuit to the hardware store for cords, etc. for her), the place looked pretty good.
So we started on the tree. We had decided to put it in the new room this year, where we will be serving Christmas Eve dinner to our family of 15. Unfortunately, by the time we figured out where the tables had to go, there was nowhere for the tree that would allow people to walk around it or sit, or that was far enough away from the woodstove. It could only go in the living room where it has always gone, except that Murphy's crate is now in that space. Another discussion ensued.
The long and short of this, is that the tree is up, the house is decorated, the dog's crates are somewhere, and Mike and I are still happily married - to each other. Mission accomplished and off we went to Tom Vogl and Katherine Long's party to celebrate the Winter Solstice.
Always a wonderful gathering, we saw lots of friends, made some new acquaintances, enjoyed perfectly cooked salmon and ham and lots of side dishes and desserts. Tom and Katherine wisely leave their lights up all year, draped across bookcases and window casings, so they are rarely affected by the last-minute attempts that afflict the rest of us. It makes their home feel cheerful and festive all the time. This year they added balloons shaped like crescent moons and strings of blue lights to guide partygoers to the door. Katherine's mother, also named Katherine Long, was here for the party, as was Tom's son, Jerry.
Beth Toomey is eagerly awaiting the arrival this week of her son, Christopher Russell, who will be home for two weeks from Iraq. Beth has been in charge of oversight of the construction of Chris's house and she expects that it will be completed by the time he returns permanently to the Vineyard.
Kevin Green will be here for the holidays visiting his grandmother, Cynthia Riggs. Kevin is a freshman at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, majoring in German. He is also a musician; he sings and plays both keyboard and saxophone, an instrument he learned as a student at the West Tisbury School.
Lucy Mayhew will be home for the holidays from her studies in Portland, Oregon. She will be joining her sister, Caroline, Caroline's friend, Dan Johnson, and members of his family, all staying at Jack and Betsey Mayhew's home. Deborah and Katie Ann will host Christmas Eve dinner for the family. Christmas Day everyone will be at Jack and Betsey's. Shirley and John will, of course, be in attendance.
Betsey and Caroline have recently returned from being vagabonds across the western part of the country. On the spur of the moment, they decided to fly to Denver, where they rented a car and began driving where the spirit moved them. Betsey said, "If we liked a place, we stayed for a few days. If we were disappointed, we moved on." She estimates that they drove about 5,000 miles over three weeks and had a great time. They drove to South Dakota, Utah, to Portland to see Lucy, to Davis, Calif., to see Sarah Mayhew, then along the Monterey coast. They also looked at law schools - Berkley, Stanford, and UCLA, and visited seven museums before driving to Phoenix and flying home.
A faithful correspondent asked me to mention the coloration of the finches at her birdfeeder. They turned their winter drab as expected, but lately have appeared in bright summer yellow, only to begin turning gray-brown once again. One assumes it's the temperatures, which remain unseasonably mild. Does anyone know?
Faith Runner will celebrate her birthday this week, on Dec. 23. Fred Thurber and Richard Doane will celebrate on Dec. 24, as will Cary Scheller, who will be 96. Martha Doane will celebrate her birthday on Dec. 26. Happy Birthday to you all.
The Space Needs Committee was buoyed by the response to our report and comments from the approximately 30 town residents who attended our first forum at the Howes House last Wednesday evening. Your comments helped to shape the questionnaire/survey we have written and distributed at the town hall, library, Howes House, and on the town web site. We all look forward to your responses.
I was very sad to learn of the passing last week of Ray Houle. Mr. Houle was an assessor and also served as shellfish warden for the town for many years. He was a real gentleman and I shall miss him.
Former West Tisbury resident Jerry Pomerance died last week in New York City, where he lived with his wife, Fredi, and daughter, Janice. Condolences to them both.
Condolences also to Howard Curtis, whose mother, Phyllis L. Curtis, died Thursday at Merrimac Valley Hospital.
Please remember that the Town Hall and the library will be closed for the holiday weekend and on Monday, Christmas Day.
I know that the holidays can be emotional, a mix of happy and sad memories, and often an overabundance of everything. I wish everyone peace, amity, health, happiness, and kindness to one another. I hope you can all find something to feel joyful about. I look forward to hearing about your travels, visitors, and celebrations for next week's column, and your sadnesses as well; they are all part of our lives. Our lives are our community. I cherish you all and thank you all. As my mother used to say, "Merry Happy."