West Tisbury: The Shiny Brite Co.


Will we have a white Christmas?

All my childhood memories of Christmas are wrapped in white. The lawn and trees were always covered, and snow always fell quietly outside our windows. There was always a fire in the fireplace that held our stockings along its mantel. Our tree stood in the center of the room, a vision of colored lights and Shiny Brite ornaments.

Checking the spelling of Shiny Brite, I looked online at the history of the company, and pictures of their different ornaments. A man named Max Eckardt had been importing glass balls from Germany since 1907. He began the Shiny Brite Co. in 1937, anticipating that a possible World War II would disrupt his supply. He partnered with the Corning Glass Company to develop a clear glass ball that would be painted and decorated by hand by Shiny Brite employees. Knowing that bit of their history gives me another layer of appreciation for the sparkly colored balls I will be unwrapping to hang on our tree.

Our tree will be very special this year. It was given to us as a tiny seedling by our dear friend, Howard Wall. We have cut down trees in our woods for the past several years. This year, it will be Howard’s, too close to the house, but otherwise perfect. It will be the most beautiful tree we have ever had, and I plan to have Diane and the girls over to admire it and share its special history.

We will bring it in at the very last moment before Christmas Eve, as my family did throughout my childhood. When we were very little, our parents brought in the tree, decorated it, filled our stockings, and set out our presents on Christmas Eve after we kids went to bed. As we grew older, decorating the tree on Christmas Eve was our tradition. I still love waking up Christmas morning to the decorated tree and evidence that Santa had arrived during the night.

This is the time before Hanukkah and Christmas that I get weepy and sentimental, missing my parents and brother Mark, missing the traditions and memories of those childhood holidays. Taking out the menorah and unpacking boxes of ornaments and decorations, everything is a mix-up of today and times past.

I heard Mike telling someone about how long it takes me to decorate our tree. Every ornament has a story, of my parents, Mark, of friends who have died or are no longer in my life, of trips and traditions. My brothers, Mike and Andy, are so far away. We wish we had ruby slippers like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. One year, my brother Mike sent me a pair of ruby slippers he found in a thrift shop in Connecticut. He met Ruth Kirchmeier’s sister, Susie Goldstein, who was in the line in front of him that day. So there are happy stories, too. Happy connections, but those ruby slippers don’t work; here I remain.

Our parents loved holidays, and made them magic for us kids. We still hold that magic in our hearts to this day, emailing or phoning back and forth as we bake Mom’s cookies, and wrap our packages for each other. We all decorate like mad.

As I am writing this for The Times’ early deadline, much remains undone. I have already written about the tree, but before that I have to cut greens for the windowsills, and bring up my boxes of Christmas village houses and trees and singers, curled wood and bottlebrush trees, icicles, angels, and china animals from the basement. Some of the aforementioned Shiny Brite balls will be tucked in amidst the greenery or in a bowl on the dining room table. The feather tree that Andy made me one year will be set on a table where, hopefully, none of our cats will swat at the tiny ornaments.

I had hoped for a golden retriever for Christmas, but Mike is still not ready. The time and the dog will come. 

Cousins will begin arriving on the Island. Mike’s cousin Dan, with his wife and daughter. My cousin Craig, with his wife and two young children. I can’t wait to see them all, and to celebrate the holiday with them. I wish Charlotte was here.

Don’t forget that there will be drop-in crafts, soup and bread lunches, and movies with popcorn every weekday at the library during the school vacation. The Lego Club will meet Saturday, Dec. 28, from 2:30 to 4:30. Also, Kanta Lipsky’s Balance Workshop will be held at the Howes House this Monday, Dec. 30, still at 11:30, and the West Tiz Book Club will meet at the library that evening at 7 pm. This month’s book is “Beartown,” by Frederik Backman.

My wishes for everyone to have the holiday they choose, be it a quiet day alone, or a busy one surrounded by others. I hope everyone has a decent meal and a warm place to be. I hope everyone has something to be thankful for, and that everyone can find kindness in their hearts.