West Tisbury: Mayhews’ oyster stew party, three-day book sale, and Hanukkah this Sunday

—MV Times

It began to snow on Monday morning as I was writing my column. It didn’t last more than an hour or so, but it was beautiful as it softly blew and fell outside our windows. It’s been cold the past few mornings, outlining the edges of leaves with a silvery coating of frost. I seem to remember thinking it was almost springlike only a few days ago.

The town party last week was wonderful, the Ag Hall filled with longtime friends, mostly unmasked, glad to be together again. Many of us commented that it felt unfamiliar, that we had gotten out of the habit of socializing. I have to admit that many of us found the noise level daunting; we’re all getting older and finding it harder to hear in loud rooms.

Saturday evening was the Mayhews’ oyster stew party, another formerly annual event surrendered to Covid restrictions the past two years. What a happy group we were. I learned a bit about the history of the party from Jack, filled out with details from Deborah. It was Shirley and Johnny’s idea some sixty years ago, when they would go from house to house on Christmas afternoon to deliver presents to their friends, and finding no one at home; everyone was out doing the same thing. Shirley decided that if she invited them all over on Christmas night, everyone would be in the same place at the same time. Johnny got the oysters. Shirley made a huge pot of oyster stew that simmered on the stove and filled the kitchen with its enticing fragrance. Their house was always the most welcoming place.

Bannie Sexton, Martha Sanford, the Rosenthals, Nevins, Murphys, Whitings, Mazers, Athearns, Huntingtons, Hodgsons, Abbotts, and McCarthys were the original families. It’s been at Deborah’s for the past twenty-five years, equally welcoming, and filled now with the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original families, along with some newer washashores like me, collected along the way.

Sunday afternoon was Santa Claus’s early visit to the West Tisbury firehouse to hear what all the children want for Christmas. It goes without saying that they have all been good this past year. We are grateful that Santa makes the time to visit us when he is so busy. The firemen had put together backpacks filled with presents to give out to the children, and there was hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. I always feel thrilled seeing Santa arrive at the station. It’s my favorite day of the year.

There, too, it’s an occasion to see the new babies and young children as they grow up, and to reminisce about it being only a moment ago when their parents were the young children, to remember elders who are gone. There are big collection boxes at the Police Department for donated winter coats and food for the Food Pantry. They will be there till the end of the month. I forgot to mention it before the party.

Big thanks to Skipper Manter, John Cotterill, and Brad Cortez, who decorated the tree at Haynes Point. It looks particularly beautiful this year, and always feels so welcoming to all who are coming home at night. Pam Glavin will be putting up Carl’s tree at the Aquinnah cemetery this weekend. It’s her Christmas tribute to her late husband, Carl Widdiss. She asks that visitors leave an ornament and a promise to do some act of kindness in Carl’s memory. The tree will be up all winter.

The Friends of the West Tisbury Free Public Library are holding a three-day book sale at the library this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, Dec. 18 through 20, from noon to 4 pm. My condolences to the family of Judy Bryant, who died last week. Judy was one of those amazing people who could do anything and do it beautifully. She was creative and curious in myriad ways, competent in all. She and her husband, John, were great resources, as together their range of knowledge and skills seemed limitless, and they were always willing to share.

Hannah Beecher and I had a date last Friday to spend the day together making Christmas ornaments. I cleaned off my big dining room table and the sun shone in, bright and warm, perfect for close sewing. We spread out our supplies and got to work. After all day Friday and part of Saturday, Hannah had made two bejeweled felt-covered wooden trees. I made one embroidered, decorated, stuffed little ornament. We had no idea; they look so easy in craft magazines. We decided that we would start in July for next year. I’m afraid that even starting in July I would be lucky to have enough for gifts by Christmas 2025.

Hanukkah will begin this Sunday evening. More about that next week.