Town Column : West Tisbury
Our woods are a composition in white, snow on the branches against a pale sky. As in a painting, white is not really white but the combined effect of green-grays, lavender-grays, blue-grays, etc. Whatever it is, it's beautiful.
The Christmases of my childhood were always snow-filled. Our driveway was a big slope and behind our house there were two ponds for skating. New ice skates were an annual present and all the children in the neighborhood had sleds. I can look back to the childhood of my memories to see us pink-cheeked and laughing, racing across the ice or sledding downhill, pulling the sled up and whooshing down again, over and over on endless cold and snowy days.
My parents were older, in their late 30s and late 40s when we were born. Neither one was particularly fanciful or creative, though they died before I was old enough to recognize those characteristics if they were there. But they both loved the holidays. We had Hanukah and Christmas in our house. My parents believed all holidays were occasions for celebration and it was a good way to learn about other people's customs. Blue and white garlands of six-pointed stars and dreidels decorated the stone fireplace in our living room, red and green stockings hanging there as well. Our menorah candles sparkled for eight nights on the dining room table as electric candles gleamed in all the windows and a red-bowed wreath hung on the door.
On Christmas Eve, after my mother put us children to bed, my father would come home with the tree they would set up and decorate late into the night. Christmas morning, we would come out to the living room to discover the tree decorated and lit, surrounded by presents, and a thank-you note from Santa for the cookies and milk we left for him. That magical anticipation still fills my heart every Christmas morning. As an adult, however, now doing the work myself, I have an appreciation of all my parents did to make it special for us, and that they had probably just gone to bed when we ran in to awaken them.
As we kids grew older, our family decorated the tree together on Christmas Eve, sang Christmas carols, and ate the beautiful tray of cookies my mother set out. When I was alone in my 20s still living in Ridgefield, I would decorate my tree in my bedroom, walk into town to St. Mary's for midnight mass, walk home, plug in the lights before I went to bed so I could awaken to that magical sight on Christmas morning.
This year, Hanukah will become part of our family's celebration again. My mother's menorah, polished and set on our dining room table, will be lit one night after the next for eight nights. We don't need presents any more, but I have my mother's recipes and plan to make latkes and blintzes over the holiday.
There will be a special Sabbath and Hanukah service at the Hebrew Center on Friday evening, December 26, at 5:30 pm, at which everyone may bring their own menorahs to light. There will be latkes for supper afterwards, and everyone is to bring a salad or fruit to share. There will also be a collection of non-perishable food for the Island Food Pantry.
I was surprised and happy to see Amelia Smith at the library party last week. She is here from her new home in Galway, Ireland, to spend Christmas with her parents, Woolcott and Leah Smith. With Amelia are her husband, Michael Craughwell, and their beautiful baby daughter, Nova. It was quite a sight to see Leah holding Nova, both with heads of blonde curls, laughing together. Keston and Emily Smith were at the party, too.
The Island Brass played for us. They really are wonderful, and enjoyed by everyone. The music adds so much to the ambience. Thanks, too, to everyone who attends and contributes to this party and to library events year-round.
It feels like Phoenix Becker has always been part of the library staff. She has just begun working at the circulation desk and we welcome her most heartily.
Ruth Kirchmeier and Nelson Bryant are getting ready for the arrival of Ruth's son, Eli Ohlhausen, who will be joining them for Christmas this year. Also much anticipated is the homecoming of Sam Bryant from college. His father, Jeff, and friend Marshall Pratt are going off to pick Sam up in Bronxville, N.Y.
Louise and Henry Bessire will arrive on December 28 for two weeks. They will take the long way to get here, however, leaving New York to spend time with Paul and Anne in Boston and a few days with Mark and Aimee in Portland, Maine. Then they go to New Hampshire to visit their friends the Walmsleys, a change from the usual tradition of the Walmsleys spending New Year's on the Vineyard.
Also, Brooks Robards announces the birth of her grandson. Gabriel Thomas von Ranson was born at 4:42 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 10, weighing in at 7 lbs. 1 oz. and measuring 20 inches. Mom and dad, Julia and Erik are doing fine, as is Vineyard stalwart, brother Sean.
It's such a busy and exciting time as kids return home from school or their grown-up lives off-Island, as relatives ready homes and traditions or head off-Island themselves. The people we love are what make our lives rich. This is the time of year especially to acknowledge the ones who are with us and to miss those who are gone.