West Tisbury: Taking down the Xmas tree


I’ve always wondered why people take their trees down the moment Christmas Day is over. Recently someone told me that her tree was down and out of the house by 10 am Christmas morning. “What did you open your presents under?” I asked. “We were all done by then,” she responded.

This is the time I enjoy the most, when Christmas is over and all I have to do is appreciate the lights and the decorations. Nothing more has to be done. Although both my brothers have so many decorations and such elaborate trees that they often do enough to make the tree festive for Christmas Eve, then add more at their leisure after Christmas. We have always left our trees up as long as possible. I intend to continue the tradition.

Behind our little tree is the first of my amaryllis to bloom this year. It’s bright red, with an orange cast where the sun hits its petals — very beautiful. Two flowers have opened, with two more big buds and another stem coming. A second amaryllis is all budded up, and should open within the next week. More are coming in all different colors. They will provide an ongoing display throughout the winter, brightening up our greenhouse, and giving me something to put in a still life setup.

People have asked me how I make them rebloom every year. Here’s what I do; it may not be proper protocol, but it has worked for me for many years. After the flowers bloom and shrivel up, I cut them off, leaving the tall stem to turn brown and shrivel up. I take that off at the base — just the stem, not the large green leaves. I water the plants and feed them, hoping that the bulbs will be nourished throughout the winter. Around Memorial Day, or whenever it feels warm enough and I can’t stand having all those plants inside another second, out they go to spend the summer underneath bushes, or with at least some protection from heat and direct sun. They remain there for the summer. I may turn the hose on them if it’s really dry. When I bring them inside again just before a frost is predicted, usually around Halloween, I cut all the ugly foliage off, freshen up the soil or repot bulbs, but they like to be pot-bound so I usually just wash off the pots and spread them out around the greenhouse floor. They move up onto a shelf or table in front of the windows when they send up buds. And that’s it. My orchids receive the same treatment. Charlie Parton told me years ago to leave them out long enough in the fall for the nights to get cold, but before a frost. It seems to work.

Similarly treated are the two Christmas cactuses I inherited when my mother died in 1978. They are still thriving, covered with loads of magenta flowers from around Thanksgiving until almost when I move them outside in May. They seem to soldier on, year after year. I am so sentimental about them that I hope they will live forever.

I don’t really love having houseplants inside — one more thing to take care of. They often get rather straggly by March or April. But the color is always welcome, and despite everything, I persist in the ritual described above.

I am watching the first session of the new House of Representatives as I am writing this column. Watching the vote that elected Nancy Pelosi as speaker, her second time, the first woman to serve in that role. She addressed the gathered officials and their families, welcoming them “in brotherhood and sisterhood,” on the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. This new Congress has a record number of women serving. As she was about to be sworn in, she invited her grandchildren and all the children in the chamber to join her on the podium. It was so moving, and still thrilling. May this new Congress bring civility, bipartisan compromise, respect for our Constitution, and a respect for common humanity. A fresh start.

Community suppers, a hallmark of off-season on the Island, are held at the West Tisbury Church every Wednesday evening at 5:30 pm through the end of April. There is a meal planned at different churches on each night — check the listings in the newspaper.

If you have ever considered becoming a foster parent, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is hosting a recruitment event on-Island this Saturday, Jan. 12, from noon to 3 pm. It will be at 3 Poplar Ln., Oak Bluffs. Current foster parents and social workers will discuss their experiences and answer your questions. Please RSVP at 508-760-0275.

Martha’s Vineyard Democrats will meet Saturday morning at Howes House from 9:30 to 11 am. They will elect a slate of officers for 2019. You must be a registered Democrat to vote.

Over the holidays, I forgot to mention Pam Glavin put up the wishing tree at the gravesite of her husband, Carl Widdiss, at the Aquinnah cemetery. It has become a tradition for Pam to invite everyone on-Island to bring an ornament and a promise to help someone over the winter. It is a way for her and her family to honor Carl’s memory. This year she has left a bag with a stocking full of treats for all who participate, and solar lights to lead the way. The tree will be in place through the end of March, so please take a moment to make your promise and help a neighbor. This is a reminder that the long winter will surely find someone you know in need of having their walk shoveled, a meal delivered, or just taking some time to visit. We all need to care for and help one another.

Siren Mayhew and Sean and Griffin McMahon performed back-to-back country music concerts at St. Christopher’s Church in Chatham as part of Chatham’s First Night festivities. They were met by lots of family and Vineyard friends, as well as some of Deborah Mayhew’s grad school classmates. The star of the show was Siren and Sean’s daughter, Isla, who attended in her grandmother’s arms and was introduced to the crowd. I suspect she will be singing and dancing and part of the act as soon as she is walking and talking.

At the West Tisbury library this week: Friday, Jan. 11, a panel discussion at noon with the Martha’s Vineyard Nonprofit Collaborative. They will explain the denial of nonprofit tax-exempt status in some Island towns. RSVP at mvdonors.wildapricot.org/event-3167909. At 3:30 pm, Glow Yoga for tweens and teens. On Saturday, Jan. 12, from 3:30 to 5 pm, there will be an opening reception for documentary photographer Roberto “Robin” Romano. His exhibition, “Beneath the Barcode,” shows the faces of child labor. It will remain on view through January. On Sunday, Jan. 13, at 3 pm, Jennie Isbell Shinn will lead a Community Dreamwork Circle. At 3:30, the John Alaimo Trio will perform for the Second Sunday Jazz Concert. On Monday, Jan. 14, at 11:30 am, Kanta Lipsky will lead her weekly Balance Workshop. At 7 pm, Writers Read will meet. On Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 10:30 am, there will be an Adult Community Dance Class with the Yard. At 11 am, Little Bird’s Laura Jordan will lead a music class for kids. On Wednesday, Jan. 16, David Rhoderick will lead a Classic Music Appreciation at 10:30 am.

After I wrote the opening of this column, Mike came home with the Gazette, containing an essay by Eileen Maley on the same subject. Eileen’s perspective was the opposite of mine, her essay titled “Sweeping Out the Holiday Season.” She described her pleasure at taking the tree apart, carefully wrapping her ornaments to store away for next year, then reclaiming space and light in her living room once the tree was cleared away. She declared herself ready to move on. I love Eileen’s writing, her skill at description, her humor, her practicality, her clean and careful prose.

But for this moment, I remain contentedly sitting on my living room sofa enjoying the tiny white lights on our tree, still covered with sentimental ornaments, keeping Christmas memories alive and well into this darkening night. With all the things people have to disagree about, this seems rather a benign one, and I smile at the thought of our respectfully disagreeing.