West Tisbury: Santa will be at Station II, our town party, and Minnesingers perform

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—MV Times

I woke up during the night, and looking out at the sky, I was amazed at how brightly the stars shone. They appeared larger, too. Maybe it was just my imagination, although as the nights cool, it does seem that the sky is clearer and darker. The only lights beside stars that I want to see at this time of year are our neighbors’ Christmas lights.

The firemen hung new colored lights on Station I across the street after Sunday morning radio check. Mike came home inspired to put up lights across our garden fence and along the porch railing. Ours are the energy-efficient LED lights, what modern-day Christmas lights are these days, but the ritual still reminds me of Mike’s father wrapping big, multicolored light strings around his and Bobby’s fence next door. It’s funny, amusing funny, how we replicate our childhood memories into aspects of our adult lives, like lights on fences.

When I was growing up, we decorated inside the store and the big window across the front of Smith Pharmacy right after Thanksgiving, the way many families bring in a tree and start decorating. It was different at home. There were lights in the windows, but decorations inside appeared slowly, a bit at a time. On Christmas Eve, we hung our stockings from the fireplace mantel, set out cookies and milk for Santa, and went reluctantly to bed.

I still marvel at how they did it. After closing the store at 9 o’clock, my father and mother brought in a tree, set it up and decorated it, filled our stockings, laid out our presents, and left a nice thank-you note from Santa for the cookies and milk. Seventy-plus years later, I still feel the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning to that magical scene. 

They must have stayed up most of the night, I know that now, as I’m the one doing it. Even though I eventually knew it was my parents, and now that it’s Mike and me, I still know in my heart that Santa had come during the night. It was a wonderful gift my parents gave us. If we had had children, I would have wanted that to be my gift to them. I still do it for myself, and I still believe in Santa Claus.

It was different in Mike’s family. They had a big family dinner on Christmas Eve at the Hull grandparents’ home in Woodbury. Decorations had gone up earlier in the month. Presents were exchanged then. On Christmas morning, everyone moved to the Tyack grandparents’ home in Waterbury to continue the festivities. 

Mike and I have followed that tradition since our marriage. Everything had to be done ahead of time when we went next door to Richard and Bobby’s for Christmas Eve. They are both gone now. So is Mike’s Aunt Janice, who lived in the house in front of us. I miss them every day when I pass their houses. I even miss them on Christmas Eve, when their house would be filled with decorations and tables laid end-to-end and prettily wrapped presents piled up. I miss the dinner being the same, much as I miss my mother’s roast turkey on Christmas Day, with all the relatives around the table.

The memories are still with me, mixed now with what the holiday has become since elders have passed on and children have grown and moved away. I suspect I am not alone in finding the holidays difficult. I’m still trying to make it different; my feelings are just feelings, my thoughts are just thoughts. Hearts needn’t have irreparable holes.

That said, there is still much magic and lightness through December. I love driving home after dark and seeing colorful lights. Our town party will be on Dec. 8, 5 to 7, at the Ag Hall. We will bring delicious potluck treats and be happy to be together. So many people who are woven into the fabric of our town and my life here. So many years.

Santa will be at Station II, the Public Safety Building, on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 11, from 1 to 3 pm. Bring your wish list for Santa, have some cookies, see your friends. Kids of all ages are welcome.

Matt Pelikan will speak at the West Tisbury library on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 3:30 pm. He will discuss the newly launched M.V. Atlas of Life website, where everyone can share sightings of flora and fauna. It is envisioned as a resource for us to learn more about our natural world. No sign-up is required.

Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 6, at 3:30 pm, at the library, Healthy Aging M.V. director Cindy Trish will describe some of their new programs and services for aging adults, including help modifying homes for safety, and transportation options. No sign-up necessary.

The Minnesingers will perform at the Neighborhood Convention’s monthly meeting on Dec. 6, at 11 am. Bring your sack lunch to the United Methodist Church in Oak Bluffs. Everyone is welcome.

Congratulations to Paddy Moore, who will be awarded the Spirit of the Vineyard Award at the West Tisbury Church on Dec. 3, 4 to 6 pm. Paddy has been an incredible advocate and support for elders, for keeping people comfortably and safely at home, including keeping those with dementia at home and part of the community. She has made a difference in so many lives, not least of which was her late husband Ben’s. I always loved seeing Paddy and Ben out together throughout his time with Alzheimer’s. It’s so important.