Oak Bluffs


This will be a different column, so let’s start with the birthday smiles. We are sending them to Rick Tarter on the 28th, and Ava Ben David, Anita Combra, and Claudia Metell on the 31st,

How very quickly this beautiful season has reached its climax. The lights everywhere are so very beautiful and our Ocean Park sits softly in the night with small patches of tree lights casting their warm glow over the far corners of the now silent park but beckoning our eyes toward the gazebo in the center where the warmest yet soft lights complete the picture of serenity. Our town is beautiful as the stores are dressed for the season and most welcoming. Travel along the harbor as you are leaving town and gaze at the small trees as their lights reflect on the water. The Nelson W. Amaral Fire Station on Wing Road looks smartly dressed in lights, thanks to the hard work of the OBFD and EMS personnel.

Has Christmas really changed that much over the years? My mother-in-law would tell us the story of she and her siblings excitingly opening their stockings and thrilled to find an orange, perhaps socks and most delightfully perhaps, was that piece of Christmas Candy stuck in the toe of the stocking. Her eye would reflect the happiness of her memories as she told of the Portuguese musicians in town who would travel from house to house singing and playing their instruments and sitting and enjoying the hospitality of everyone who welcomed them. I guess some of the celebrations went on through the night, and she said the children would be sent upstairs to bed but the partying went on until dawn.

My childhood memories recall the excitement of the tree being “put up,” perhaps only a week or so before Christmas because all the trees were live. Absolutely no presents were put under the tree until Christmas eve when my sisters and I would be sleeping. I think my children and grandchildren would be amazed at how contented we were with whatever we found. It was most simple, paper dolls, handmade clothes and of course books.

The Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven was a big part of our social lives and I still remember sitting in the pews and the childrens’ names were called one by one to come and get a gift. And then the occasional times that we were able to spend Christmas with our parents’ families in New Hampshire and Vermont, where we would celebrate with my many Gates and Bagley aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was much joy spread around. By today’s expectations, it might seem as if we had little, but to Islanders in the late ’30s and 40’s it was enough. The memories you see, are not so much of those material gifts received but the joy and love that was given out and felt by all of us

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Peace.