It’s pretty notable the way so many of us end up living on Martha’s Vineyard. Kimberly Cartwright, yoga instructor, intuitive spirit coach, mother of three, and wife of local mover and shaker Ewell Hopkins, explained how she and her nearest and dearest ended up rock-bound over 18 years ago: “My mother-in-law, Esther, and my father-in-law, Ewell Sr., and Ewell and I loved to vacation on the Vineyard, so we decided to invest, all four of us, in a small Acorn cottage here.” The modest house sat on the site now occupied by the Hopkins’ big, bold, sprawling contemporary home in Tower Ridge, at the top of a steep hill, surrounded by woods, with the Southern Woodlands across the field, the area basking in the kind of natural seclusion we tend to think of as being primarily up-Island or on Chappaquiddick, but which, in fact, is situated off County Road in Oak Bluffs.
Ewell, from Framingham, and Kimberly, from Evanston, an affluent community outside Chicago, lived together in Newton, another affluent exurb, of course, this one on the fringes of Boston. “I wasn’t comfortable in Newton,” she confides. “There was pressure to maintain a certain standard of living, like that old expression ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ I found when I was visiting here on the Vineyard, I relaxed in a whole new way. I fell in love with the quality of light.”
On one occasion, Kimberly journeyed down with their eldest daughter, Kristine, now 18, and after the planned week’s holiday reached an end, she found herself unable to leave. She called Ewell and explained, “Sweetheart, we’re going to stay another week.”
She extended the weeklong retreats four more times.
At last, Ewell said, “You know, I’m on a plane a lot anyway [he works in high-tech sales]. Let’s try the Vineyard for a year.” And then Ewell too fell under The Spell. They sold the Newton house before the trial year was up. Then, in 2001, Ewell Sr. died, leaving Grandma Esther alone in Framingham. Now 90 going on 70 — this is not meant as mere flattery — Esther is awesome, an energetic, intellectual, full-time member of the community. Her son and daughter-in-law kept begging her to move in with them.
The house needed to spread its wings. Contractor David Gampfer brought in architect Moira Fitzgerald, and a modern villa of many levels, steeply angled ceilings, skylights, and high windows emerged. Kathy Forsythe of Forsythe Design went to work on the interior, developing a color scheme of pale yellow, dusty teal, apricot, and silk-tree green walls. Kimberly says, “The colors talk to each other, inside and out, ‘out’ being the colors of nature.”
Cantilevered floors use wood, yielding to tiles in the foyer and kitchen. In the living room, a cluster of comfy chairs and sofas is grouped around the fireplace. Clearly, much animated conversation goes on here.
Daughter Kristine graduated in May, and embarked on an exciting and civic-spirited gap year in Guatemala, working at a Central American iteration of our own Camp Jabberwocky. College is next on her agenda.
Daniele, 16, has already followed her bliss to being an actor, having appeared a couple of years ago in the Vineyard Playhouse production of Kate Feiffer’s play, “My Mother Is Trying to Ruin My Life.” Daniele’s mother says, “She’s strong-willed and outgoing, has worked on a Model U.N. project, and plays field hockey.”
Kid brother Trip, 13, is “a lovely young man,” says his proud mom. “He likes basketball, and he works at Camp Sassafras in Aquinnah, which provides a nature experience. You learn survival, birdwatching, how to start fires” — all that Outward Bound–type jazz.
Meanwhile, Daddy Ewell has thrived on M.V. One wonders if his passion for public service is part of his DNA. From the time he set a permanent foot on the Island, he’s immersed himself in Habitat for Humanity, the Oak Bluffs Planning Committee, and the Democratic Town Committee; plus he’s president of the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard. In a grand and wholly Ewell-ian gesture, he recently threw his hat in the ring for state representative. The district includes Barnstable, Dukes County (that’s us), and Nantucket. Ewell’s fate will be established in the September primary, and, should a win ensue, in the general election in November 2016.
Meanwhile, the Hopkins home hosts a parade of occupants and friends. In the pitch-roofed dining room, a long farmhouse-style table seats eight, and Kimberly says the dinner hour is never at a loss for a rota of family and irregulars. And of course, the most highly regarded fixture of all is the gentle giant of a chocolate Labrador, Leroy Brown, a one-dog welcoming committee.
Tolstoy famously declared that all happy families are alike, but if there exist any happy families even remotely like the Hopkins, and if any of them have a dad or mom running for state rep, well then, they might all have good luck in elections in September.