Edgartown: saying goodbye


As a child, I remember walking down (I think) South Summer Street with my big sister Shannon and, as usual, she was tormenting me. This time, she warned me not to step in the poo. I looked down at my new white Tretorn sneakers, meticulously maintained, and tiptoed in a paranoid fashion, eyes down, perplexed, searching for this mysterious poo, until finally, Shannon erupted in a fit of giggles as I planted my foot so delicately on the cement. “You stepped in it!,” she yelled, unable to catch her breath, and it took me a few seconds sifting through the emotions of embarrassment and confusion to see what she saw: during the drying process, someone had taken a stick and etched the word POO into the concrete sidewalk block.

The cement sidewalk and its verbal defilement have since been replaced with quaint red brick in the name of historic preservation, but a part of me still searches for that elusive block that Shannon could always find and I never seemed to see until I’d already stepped in it.

I have talked a lot in this column over the past five years — yes, it has been five years — about my appreciation for our town’s evolution. I walk the same sidewalks my ancestors walked, enter the same buildings in their current incarnations. Each year, we enhance and preserve: the Whaling Church, the mini park, the Town Hall, so that we can move forward with solemn respect to the past.

I remember as a child walking down School Street on Sunday evenings for ice cream, and stopping so our friend, the caretaker of what used to be the Edgartown Historical Society and has since taken on the moniker Martha’s Vineyard Museum, could wind up the light. The Fresnel lens would cast its glow across the lawn, and Shannon and I would chase the light as it moved, finding ourselves glowing red or white, our shadows so tall they brushed the hedges across the street. We would run around just enough to work up an appetite for ice cream — peppermint stick for Shannon and mint chocolate chip for me — to be acquired at the Ice Cream Candy Bazaar, which hasn’t changed a lick (pun intended).

Now, years later, at the same Bazaar, my nieces and nephew grab their little baskets and stuff them with candy necklaces and caramel bull’s eyes and atomic fireballs, just as we did, and carry out their booty in the same white paper bags, while Shannon and I, much older now, relate this week’s tales of being mistaken for each other — she tells me how yet another person told her they loved her column, and I share all the times people have asked after “my” kids. And I think of my nieces having this same conversation on this same bench someday in the future, and how it will be absolutely the same and terrifically different for them in ways we cannot imagine.

Last night I watched the sun set in the west from Norton Point, just near the fragile isthmus that connects Chappy to Edgartown, and I thought about the breach, and how much change can take place in such a short period of time. Our Island grows and shrinks and erodes and rebuilds itself in ways we cannot explain, though some in certain professions deign to predict and prophesize about it, and just as our home changes around us, so do we change.

Here we are in the fall, and I have just made the switch from flip-flops earlier in the day to shearling boots, though yesterday I floated in the harbor, and perhaps I will again tomorrow. It is a time of year of beginnings and endings, great commencements and fond farewells. And the time has come for me to bid you all adieu.

This is my final column, and I must express my gratitude for the past five years of you all including me in your lives — births, and lost teeth, and weddings, and owl sightings, and vacations, graduations, milestones, and of course, birthdays. And thank you for humoring me as I regaled you with often verbose recollections of my own. Good luck with all your future endeavors, and whatever you do, watch out for that poo.

Editor’s note: The MVTimes is searching for a new Edgartown columnist. Please email jamie@mvtimes.com if interested.