West Tisbury: Last minute holiday shopping

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— Kyra Steck

The electric candles are alight in our windows, brightening the dark night. Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, after which each day will lengthen by 2 minutes, 7 seconds, about an hour a month, until the summer solstice in June. Indoor and outdoor lights make these dark evenings feel cozy and festive. It always seems darker outside after the holiday lights come down.

My mom’s two Christmas cactuses are blooming, with magenta pink flowers and memories of how they always bloomed in her windows at Christmas time. The feather tree my brother Andy made for me is sitting on a table, decorated with the tiniest ornaments to suit its diminutive size. I have cut greens to make a swag hung by the door and to decorate the windowsills. Mike and I have gone out in our woods to cut down a tree we always put up as close to Christmas Eve as possible, the way my family always did. The boxes of ornaments have come upstairs. Each one has a story and I am afraid I reminisce over each one every year.

I stopped by Heather Gardens the other day to pick up something at Island Made Holidays. It is beyond wonderful. The large greenhouse has so much more light and space than the old annex behind Alley’s, allowing many new craftspeople to participate. Upon entering, you will be greeted by a display of felted animals and figures, including some large angels and Santa Clauses. Behind that, four rows of tables and shelves are filled with an array of wares, including sea salt, jam, knitted sweaters and hats, quilted table runners, woven napkins and towels, origami paper cards, photographs, wooden bowls, books, calendars, decorated pottery, boxes of Christmas cookies, soaps, ornaments, candles, jewelry, botanicals, pieced silk scarves, and lots of greens, wreaths, poinsettias, amaryllis, and cyclamen. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. Make sure to set aside plenty of time; there’s a lot to look at.

The second place I stopped was Middletown Nursery, another amazing place to find all sorts of beautiful possibilities. For one thing, they sell cut flowers right here in town, unusual flowers like sprays of alchemilla, fragrant peonies, and the most spectacular pale pink amaryllis. There are all sorts of potted plants and bulbs, lots of wreaths and greens, cloches, and flowerpots. They also have toys, books, cards, notebooks, linen aprons, tablecloths, napkins, pillows, and cozy throws — really nice gifts for yourself or someone else.

All this added up to a pleasant outing that, best of all, was only a few miles from my house. Both places stay open through Christmas Eve, so don’t worry if you have left any shopping for the last minute.

It’s funny to write so extensively about shopping, as it barely figures in our lives anymore. Back when Mike and I were first married, we joked that whatever was left on a shelf at Alley’s or Cottle’s at 3 o’clock on Christmas Eve afternoon would be my Christmas present. He hated shopping, and does to this day. It surprises me, as he seems to come up with creative presents that have taken much thought and/or effort, but over the years it has become less important than being together and making the day special in that way. For several years, we “gave” each other promises of house projects like our garden shed or a new fence. Not much either of us want or need anymore. It’s the long-time traditions of Christmas Eve dinners with our family, waking up to the lighted tree downstairs, and a family beach walk with all the dogs on Christmas Day. As with everyone, covid has changed some of that.

There will be a Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols at the West Tisbury church at 5 pm, followed by community caroling in the church yard at 6 pm, weather permitting. The service will be in-person and livestreamed. Please note that this is different from the customary pageant at the Ag Hall and church service at 10 pm. We are all making new traditions.

I bought an Advent calendar this year and have delighted in opening the numbered “doors” every morning. Anticipation is probably most of the fun, at least a big part of it. I do love the lead-up to Christmas. Everyone smiles and says a cheery Merry Christmas, as do I. Merry Christmas, West Tisbury.