Oak Bluffs: Blessed

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We are getting ready to say goodbye to the year 2018, and all of its good news and the more difficult events we faced during this tumultuous year. It is not easy to say farewell to all the good Oak Bluffs residents who left us over the past 365 days, but please keep in your hearts and memories David Madeiras, Robert Francis, Bob Iadicicco, Herbie Landers, Gloria Darden, Rosemary Brown, Ray Farland, Peter Martel, Karen and Mike Achille, Frank Baird, Bill Stafursky, Marie Edgar, Joe Cleary, Beverly Desorcy, EvaMae Magee, Billy Faria, Mac Starks, Robert “Butch” Deese, Vahan Barmakian, Joan Potter, Joe Vera, and Janice Duarte. You have left us, but our town will always have memories of your time with us.

By now our Christmas celebrations are over for another year, but for many of us there might be a Christmas that we still hold close to our heart. In the early Forties our Christmas celebration was a visit to New Hampshire and Vermont to visit both sets of grandparents. It was not an easy trip in those days. We never had a car, that I can remember, until I entered high school, but somehow my father got ahold of one for the trip. We excitedly packed clothes and blankets and lunches and ourselves into the car, which of course had no heater in those days. My father had rigged up some sort of small fan that seemed to keep the windshield from fogging up. We wore layers of clothing and kept warm, perhaps heated by the anticipation of a trip off-Island to visit grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc., whom we did not see very often because of the distance and expense of traveling. So off we set from the only place my two sisters and myself had ever known as home, headed for the boat, no reservation required. After arriving in Woods Hole, our first destination was my mother’s parents’ home in Charlestown, N.H. It seemed forever, but was probably a trip of about eight hours (that would take four hours today); we arrived into the welcoming arms of our Gates grandparents. My grandmother looked like a typical grandmother: short, a bit stout, attired in long black stockings and high black shoes, house dress, the mandatory apron, and her long gray hair twisted into a bun. She was hard-working, a good cook, and cooked her way into our hearts on the old black iron cookstove which also served as heat in her large house. My grandfather was very quiet, and always dressed in a suit and wore a soft hat, as he was vice president of the Gearshaper tool company across the Connecticut river in Vermont. I loved him because he let us break up, in the palm of our hands, the rough tobacco he smoked to soften for his pipe, and best of all, in spite of his gentlemanly appearance, he actually said “ain’t,” which was a forbidden word to us. My mother was the eldest of six siblings, and those who did not still reside in town soon arrived en masse with their spouses and our cousins. My favorite Aunt Alice soon took me under her wing, and my sister Joyce and I decided we would take care of her twin daughters, who were three years younger than we were. Our days were filled with decorating, cookies, many hugs, and playing with cousins we knew we would not see again for a while. Than it was time for goodbyes, and we headed to Lebanon, N.H., and White River Junction, Vt., to visit my father’s Bagley family. First stop was White River Junction, as we were staying with one of my father’s sisters, Dot, and her family. My father was the eldest of 10, so we were surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins, some of whom we had never met. But our cousins Betty and Jane soon became close friends with us, and Jane and I still correspond today. We played and laughed constantly, and marvel of marvels, they had bunk beds, something we had heard of but had never seen. We spent our days visiting with family, including another cousin who lived in a tiny house with her parents on top of a mountain. My grandmother Bagley was a sweet woman who was deeply loved by her children, and worked in a rest home where we visited her. Soon it was time to say goodbye once again, and make the long return trip home. Although almost 76 years have passed and I can remember many details of that Christmas, I have absolutely no memory of any material gifts we might have received that year. How blest we were.